Put in the simplest possible terms, Waltz With Bashir is an animated documentary. It’s a true story from director Ari Folman (Saint Clara), who was a Israeli soldier during the events of the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Beirut. In the film we follow Ari as he finds old friends and fellow soldiers and talks with them to try and piece together what happened- because he simply can’t. His mind has erased his memories of what took place, what he was involved in- possibly to prevent him from living with the fact that he might have contributed to a genocide. A terrifying thought for anyone, but for an Israeli whose parents were interned at Auschwitz… well, it just takes on a whole new level of horror.

The mind does funny things to protect us, and memories are fleeting. The film explores the concept of what we perceive as reality and what dreams and memories really mean. It takes us through each person’s memories of the events in gory detail, never shying away from the more gruesome facts. It’s half drug trip, half war movie.

Coming from the point of view from someone who didn’t know many details about the event, this film’s a real eye opener. The beautiful animation uses a variety of styles (everything from rotoscoping to even flash animation!) to make a unique and truly stunning experience, one that really does show you every bit of the horrors of war. Add in a haunting and quite eclectic mix of music and you’ve got the kind of adult animated feature you’ll wish was made more often. In fact, without animation none of this would have come to life. There’s just no way to convey what took place here by showing talking heads, or photographs.

And how much easier is to ruin a documentary than with reenactments? No matter the method a documentary chooses, unless they have actual footage of the event in question it’s never going to really hit home for you. At least that’s what I always thought, until Waltz With Bashir entered my life.

And the ending… man, the ending. What a punch to the gut. It ends the only way it can, the only way it can bring everything full circle and make you realize the enormity of what you’ve just seen.

This is the kind of film that will stick with you forever, something you will mull over and think about for days. It will make you research the events in question and consider your own life and what your memories mean to you. It’s an intensely autobiographical film but the themes it explores are universal.

It’s a goddamn work of art, and well worth hunting down if it’s playing anywhere near you.