Waltz with Bashir is a very important and artistically well-conceived animated film by Ari Folman. It was almost immediately banned in Lebanon upon release, providing a potential outlet for a large movement of people to rebel against the government's continuous censorship. However, the film was finally screened in Beirut in early 2009, much to the pleasure of writer and director Ari Folman. More to the point and due to the political nature of the film, composer Max Richter has finally received proper worldwide exposure. His most unusual score turns out to be every bit as provocative and cross-cultural than the film itself. Although the score, in my humble opinion, should have received a few more awards, it managed to completely overwhelm the critics during the European Film Awards held in 2008, winning Richter the prize for Best Composer.
"Boaz and the Dogs" serves as an introduction to the overall tone of the soundtrack, albeit being one of the more "electronic" tracks on the score. It would be tempting to draw a parallel with British ambient composer Brian Eno, solely in relation to the minimal quality of the music. The electronic drones soon give way to some rather unexpected hip-hop beats. Some have mentionned the very modern feel to Waltz With Bashir, but I was taken back to the early days of I.D.M (Intelligent Dance Music - early 90's) while listening to this. The "Haunted Ocean" suites, spanning 5 seperate tracks, are the heart and soul of Waltz With Bashir. In them, Richter's combination of traditionnal and electronic motives reaches a soaring climax, each track featuring a beautiful violin movement that seem to act as the film's central theme. These can be as enchanting as they can be emotional to listen too.
As with all brilliant scores, Max Richter's music succeeds in creating a vision that works as well within as it does without the film's context. Tracks such as "JSB/RPG" accomplish this by playing the well known 2nd movement of Bach's Piano (or Harpsichord) Concerto in Fm. Others tracks like "I Swam Out to the Sea" have a operatic and mysterious flair to them, bringing composers such as Danny Elfman to mind, minus the dark choir voices and bombastic orchestration. "This is not a Love Song" is actually from the British punk group PiL (Public Image Ltd.) and sung by the inimitable John Lydon. Of course, it entirely depends on whether this is your cup of tea or not, but the music actually adds much dimension to both the film as well as the score. Besides, it isn't the sole vocal track on Waltz With Bashir. We are also treated to "Enola Gay" by OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark), marking yet another many of their recent collaborations since they reformed in 2006.
Bach, punk music, ambient electronica, orchestral scoring... Waltz With Bashir has something for everyone, it would appear. Usually, when scores encompass such a wide array of genres they tend to come off as somewhat of a mixed affair. However, Waltz With Bashir manages to convey a powerful political message in which every piece of music is an essential component to the whole.
The official web-site of the film is at www.waltzwithbashir.com.