Film Review: THE CONGRESS (directed by Ari Folman)

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by Milo Shapiro on February 13, 2014

in Film


In this highly stylized adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s sci-fi novel The Futurological Congress, Robin Wright stars as herself, but the scenario is different. She’s still the aging star of the classic films Princess Bride and Forrest Gump, but her career has taken a long, slow dump because of her frequent need to bail on movie deals to care for her fictionalized son, Aaron, and his health issues.  Her studio, Miramount, delivers her a final gut-wrenching offer:  allow her body, voice, and even her emotions to be “sampled” so that they can indefinitely make CGI movies of her forever young and gorgeous.

Robin Wright in Ari Folman's film, THE CONGRESS.

Jump forward to 2030, as a 66-year-old Robin—forbidden by contract to do any acting for the last twenty years—accepts an invitation to enter Abrahama, an alternate dream world controlled by Miramount, where everything seems exquisitely splendiferous and easy.  But there’s always a catch, isn’t there?  As the now anime Robin tries to find her place in this supposedly perfect fantasy world, the chinks in the armor begin to show and Robin has to figure out if she belongs there or not…and if there even is a way back.

Robin Wright stars in Ari Folman's film, THE CONGRESS.

Directed and written by Ari Folman (Waltz with Bashir), it took more than 200 animators from over 20 countries to create the beautiful animation.  With nearly a full hour of non-animated footage, it is still clear why the second half yielded The Congress the “Best Animated Feature Film” award at the 26th European Film Awards.  The storyline with the “real” Robin is gripping and thought provoking right up until she enters Abrahama.  After that, the majesty of the anime rules and the storyline gets too convoluted, leaving the viewer to debate what even happened in the final few minutes.  Yet even with its flaws, the film is unforgettable.  Folman’s dystopian view of Hollywood and his utilization of cutting-edge digital technology are most compelling.  And while it may sound odd to say that Robin gives a strong and touching performance as herself, it is nevertheless true.

An anime Robin Wright in Ari Folman's film, THE CONGRESS.

photos courtesy of Drafthouse Films

The Congress
Drafthouse Films
France, Israel / 2013
123 minutes / no rating
reviewed at the 24th Annual San Diego Jewish Film Festival
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