The Congress

This movie starts off on a fairly standard note, there is little in the first part of the movie to suggest how Ari Folman’s (Waltz with Bashir, 2008) direction would go. The movie is based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem using Folman’s screenplay.

The movie starts in the family home of a gracefully aging movie star being lectured to by her agent, Al, (Harvey Keitel, The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014). She has been essentially side-lined by the industry because of how hard she is to work with, however the studio have an offer for her. Against this background we learn she has two children, both mid to late teens and one of them, her son Aaron is suffering from an ailment which will eventually cause him to be both deaf and blind but in the meantime he is fascinated by flying and his kites.

After much persuasion from Al she eventually agrees to meet with the studio boss, Jeff Green (Danny Huston, Masters of sex, 2014) who informs her that there is a fundamental way in which the studios are working and that essentially actors and actresses are no longer needed. He makes her an offer she cannot refuse, but true to form she does and needs to be convinced of it. She eventually agrees but puts in some conditions, not least of all, that the “life” time-span of the contract would be 20 years, if they wanted it again it would need to be renewed. The studio will take a digital image of her and use that for making movies, she just needs to retire and not act – anywhere in the world.

We then see Robin in her early 60’s arriving at the gates of Miramount Studio’s animated City. We are not told what this is until we get there. At this stage the film turns to animation of a style reminiscent of Waltz with Bashir and more than subtle homage to the Japanese. It seems everybody is now taking a drug which allows them to essentially be who they imagine themselves to be. She arrives at a convention as a guest of the studio, only to discover she is the 6th Robin Wright to book-in. The hotel is a frenzied mix of studio executive types and other strung out and visibly the worse for wear. Nobody is who they seem, the drug takes care of that. The entire hotel and convention scene is one of bacchanalian and hedonistic partying, perhaps reminiscent of the scenes from an imagined world’s ending. It turns out it might be.

The new contract is needed because it turns out that the technology of 20years ago is no old hat and the new contracted is needed, now Robin Wright will be a sensation – a sensual sensation rather than just an image. She agree and goes to the launch where she rails against the studio machine and is promptly removed, but as this happens there is a revolution of sorts at the hotel. In the middle of this revolution the studio police come after her and the execution scene is straight from Paths to Glory, (Stanley Kubrick, 1957). After this we see how she is in fact suffering from a type of drug induced poisoning which dooms her to life in this alternative reality. She is put in to a sleep with the hope of waking her up once a cure is found. She is woken and advised to stay in this world but goes back to the old world where she quickly sees reality. It is not a good place. The world she left behind has changed, freedoms are removed, society has fallen victim to the drug, there are now two types of people – the “management” who are not on the drug and everybody else whose lives are controlled by it.

Part live action part animation this movie looks at a number of issues and how they affect not just Hollywood. Do we recognise when we have it good, how much of what is around us is illusion and what is reality. How do we know the difference and how do we make it happen?

This is a slightly challenging film to watch, mainly because it does actually challenge you to listen, watch and experience the movie.

6.5/10 this a better than average film, not perfect, but given the experimental nature of this work it stands up well and provides a very entertaining piece of work that does leave you asking questions.

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