Ari Folman’s follow up to “Waltz with Bashir”, “The Congress”, is a half-live action, half-animated take a media controlled world.
An indistinctiveness slightly mars The Congress, Ari Folman’s mixed-format follow-up to Waltz with Bashir (read the interview). Based in parts on a sci-fi novel by the late Stanisław Lem, the film is bookended by live-action sections in which Robin Wright plays herself as a beautifully aging actress persuaded b y her agent (Keitel) to sell herself for animation purposes (and the promise of eternal artistic life) to Miramount (sic). Having been scanned into the studio database whilst agreeing to abdicate all artistic control to her new owners, the film fast-forwards 20 years to the end of her contract time when we see her passing into the parallel world she has co-sanctioned in order to attend a celebratory Miramount congress. As she enters, both Wright and the movie go animated, joining a bright Sergeant Peppery world peopled by other transfigured versions of Robin, Marilyn, Che et al.
If this very real concern with a future programmed by algorithmed, ageist and commoditised entertainment is the nub of Folman’s movie, he has done it a couple of disservices. The narrative sacrifices pace and coherence as it works the divide between live action and animation – as well as a conjurer’s hat of ideological concerns. Following an attack on the animated Miramount universe, Wright only just makes it back from an affair with her animator (Jon Hamm) to an equally dystopian real world in a slightly puzzling “damned if you do and if you don’t” scenario. And Folman’s animation strategies, so mind-blowing in Waltz with Bashir, have lost some of their lustre. The entire cast is excellent, however. Led by Wright, their struggle with modes of submission and revolt is the movie’s trapeze and safety net – and the red thread of imperilled control to which we can all relate.
The Congress | Directed by Ari Folman (Israel, Germany, Poland, Luxembourg, France, Belgium 2013) with Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel
Originally published in Issue #119, September 2013.