Animation, an Approach Closer to the Real Subconscious

The debate of whether it’s more real or unreal with the premises of tradition celluloid films or new media digital films can never see the end. This is a question that can be analysed and proved either true or false in different levels and perspectives, however, within this short passage, I would like to hold a point that digital technology, animation, to be specific, is helping documentaries getting closer to real subconscious both in historic and contemporary contexts. With Waltz with Bashir (2008)’s brave attempt of combing animation and documentary, Willis can be able to stand on her feet and avoid being attacked as an optimist: “countless pessimists have bemoaned the passing of ‘real’ film, while as many champions of digital video have heralded the advent of a new, democratised form of filmmaking”.


Still from Man With A Movie Camera (1929)


Still from Waltz with Bashir (2008)

Please allow me to have a brief comparison of the two stills above. Dating back to 1920s, the key advent-garde technique a film can apply for creating fake realities in a documentary would be editing, or montage (Manovich, 2001). This is somehow limited to probe not only the history and reality, but also the senses and emotions of the generation who have experienced that certain time period. Furthermore, isn’t this depth one crucial meaning of making documentaries? Or films themselves.

Luckily, with digital tech, such as animation, filmmakers can hybridize more dream-like and unconscious elements with moving frames. What the second still manifest is a man recalling his memory of surviving but also losing his fellow soldiers in a bombing fire on a ship, during the invasion of Lebanon back in 1982. The fact on the surface is not difficult even for a metteur en scene to display. But, how to represent the unrepresentable? How to unfold a nightmare that the protagonist is hiding from? How to reveal the subconscious in front of the eyes of sophisticated audience? Except for the still, I hope to show a clip of this exact sequence.

Clip from Waltz with Bashir (2008)

Various tones, high contrasting colours, and the repeatedly appeared ocean scene construct a sense of random looping daydream. The appearance of the gigantic female-shaped matrix carries the metaphor of those veterans’ uncanny fear as well as desperate wishes when facing the line of life and death, when facing the losing the sense of secular humanity and power. Without the animation technique, we, as audience who have never experienced the invasion of Lebanon, are immersed naturally into the kingdom of the subconscious of those veterans. Like going through an unforgettable psychotherapy. As Deleuze writes: “If we want to grasp an event we must not show it, we must not pass along the event, but plunge into it.” (Deleuze, 1989)

With absolutely no idea of how technology is going to shape the future cinema, but I vote ‘IN’ for this excellent beginning of ‘alternative exploration into realism’. You think it’s a cruel dream? No, it did happen.


By Wandi Lou


Deleuze, G. (1989). Cinema 2: The Time-Image. London: Athlone

Marks, L. (2000). The Skin of the Film. Durham: Duke University Press

Manovich, L. (2001). The Language of New Media. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press

Willis. H. (2005). New Digital Cinema: Reinventing the Moving Image. London: Wallflower Press


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