The Congress

The Congress
Directed by Ari Folman
Starring Robin Wright, Paul Giamatti, Danny Huston, Harvey Keitel and Jon Hamm

by Joanna Orland

This film is a mess.  There are so many good ideas, intentions, and messages, but The Congress struggles to make sense of its own narrative. A true disappointment as it is rife with potential, and one would expect a more cohesive output from director Ari Folman.

Folman’s previous film, Waltz With Bashir, was a thing of beauty.  It was the first animated film to be nominated for a Foreign Language Oscar.  The autobiographical animated documentary about the Sabra and Chatila massacres of the 1982 Lebanese war was a humanized story with stunning visuals and a superb form of story-telling.  The Congress, however, is none of these things, except on the visual front of course.

The sci-fi film which begins in live action, stars actress Robin Wright as herself.  She is an aging actress whose best days are behind her (the film’s version only of course – in reality, she is thriving on House of Cards).  Her agent (Keitel) attempts to convince her to accept Hollywood studio Miramount’s offer to buy her image from her.  Studio executive Jeff (Huston) approaches Robin with the offer, explaining how all of the main Hollywood actors are selling their images to the studios.  The process is simple – they scan her body, her face and her emotions.  They will own Robin Wright.  They will make her image star in many Hollywood films by way of computer generated Robins.  She must promise to completely retire from acting in order to partake in this deal.  She reluctantly agrees in order to earn enough money and freedom to spend time with her ill son.  The contract is valid for 20 years.

Fast forward 20 years later and Robin is now a big Hollywood star thanks to her 20 year long computer generated career.  An aged Robin drives to Miramount Studios for a congress where the studio will be showing off their latest technology that allows people to transform into animated avatars.  The congress is held in an animated world, so Robin must partake in animated form.  Miramount now want to sell Robin’s image to the public allowing them to transform into her.

The film then goes on to explore issues such as turning people into products and choosing escapism over reality.  There is also a sex scene between an animated Robin Wright and an animated Jon Hamm, who is sadly not playing himself.

This film then gets even weirder, nonsensical, and the thread of its narrative is completely unwound.  As abstract and lost in its ideas as this film is, it is not and never could be as terrible as Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, but we’re walking a thin line here.

One Response to “The Congress”

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