The Congress is a 2013 live-action/animated science-fiction drama film written and directed by Ari Folman, based on Stanisław Lem's 1971 Polish science-fiction novel The Futurological Congress. The film premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival on 15 May 2013. Independent film distributor Drafthouse Films announced, along with Films We Like In Toronto, their co-acquisition of the North American rights to the film and a US theatrical and VOD/digital release planned for 2014.
|Directed by||Ari Folman|
|Screenplay by||Ari Folman|
|Based on||The Futurological Congress|
by Stanisław Lem
|Produced by||Diana Elbaum|
|Edited by||Nili Feller|
|Music by||Max Richter|
Robin Wright plays a fictionalized version of herself as an aging actress with a reputation for being fickle and unreliable, so much so that nobody is willing to offer her roles. Her son, Aaron, suffers from Usher syndrome that is slowly destroying his sight and hearing. With the help of Dr. Barker (Paul Giamatti), Robin is barely able to stave off the worst effects of her son's decline, although his condition is sliding into its terminal stage.
Robin's longtime agent Al (Harvey Keitel) takes her to meet Jeff Green (Danny Huston), a CEO of the film production company, Miramount Studios, who offers to buy her likeness and digitize her into a computer-animated version of herself. After initially turning down the offer, Robin reconsiders after realizing she may be unable to find future work with the emergence of this new technology, and agrees to sell the film rights to her digital image to Miramount Studios in exchange for a hefty sum of money. She is forced to promise never to act again. After her body is digitally scanned, the studio will be able to make films starring her, using only computer-generated characters. Since then, Robin's virtual persona has become the star of a popular science-fiction action film franchise, Rebel Robot Robin, featured in excerpts or parodies of Metropolis, R.U.R., Dr. Strangelove, and Children of Men, with Robin appearing inside those film excerpts.
Twenty years later, as her contract is about to expire, Robin travels to Abrahama City, where she will speak at Miramount's entertainment conference called the "Futurological Congress" in Hotel Miramount Nagasaki, and also renew her now-expired contract. Abrahama City is an animated, surreal utopia that is created from figments of people's imaginations, where anyone can become an animated avatar of themselves, but are required to use hallucinogenic drugs that allow them to enter a mutable illusory state. They can become anything they want to be; Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Clint Eastwood, and Frida Kahlo, as well as Egyptian god Horus, are seen at the Congress.
While discussing her new contract with Jeff, Robin learns that the studio has developed a new technology that will allow anyone to devour her or possibly transform themselves into her. Robin agrees to the deal, but has a crisis of conscience and does not believe she or anyone else should be turned into a product. Asked to speak to the public at the Congress, Robin publicly voices her contrary views, upsetting the hosts, judges, and the councils of the Congress, who are unimpressed with Robin's disapproval. Shortly afterwards, the Congress is interrupted by an attack of a group of rebels, terrorists, and protesters ideologically opposed to the technology industry. The head of the Congress, a Steve Jobs cartoon-parody figure, is assassinated.
During the attack, Robin is rescued and protected by Dylan Truliner (Jon Hamm), who was Miramount's lead animator for her films. They escape, but she is soon captured by "Miramount Police" and taken into custody. Robin is executed by Jeff as a punishment for rejecting the offers from Miramount and the Congress. Still in this animated world, Robin is shown on a hospital bed, while doctors discuss her case. One of the doctors reveals that when Robin was found, she pleaded with her rescuers to execute her. The doctors decide that Robin has become so exhausted and intoxicated by the effects of hallucinogen that she must be frozen until a treatment for her condition can be found.
Twenty years further on, Robin is revived and recovered in the animated world and has no memories of the Congress incident. She reunites with Dylan, who tells her that technology has improved so that anything is possible, that people can take on whatever form they wish and the ego no longer exists. Dylan and Robin fall in love and take a journey through a colorful imaginary world. However, Robin is still desperate to return to the real world and be with her son, Aaron. The only way to do that is using a suicide capsule that Dylan was given by Miramount, as his reward for twenty years of service. The capsule is only powerful enough for one person and Dylan has no more. Dylan gives it to Robin, begging her not to look at the real him when she returns to the real world.
Re-entering the unanimated real world, Robin finds herself in a dystopian environment and the inhabitants are severely dysfunctional. Those who are still able to cope in the real world hover over its ruined cities in large airships. On one of the ships, Robin finds Dr. Barker, who reveals the state of the real world, in which most people have left for an existence in the animated, unreal world. Wanting to find Aaron, Robin's hopes are dashed when Barker reveals that Aaron "crossed over" into the animated world only six months earlier, when his condition had left him virtually blind and deaf. Because Aaron likely created a new identity for himself in the animated world, there is no way for anyone to find him. While Robin can return to an animated existence, she cannot return to the one she left behind, including Dylan, because that world was not real, but created by her consciousness.
Knowing about this, Dr. Barker gives Robin an inhalation ampoule that will allow her to return to the animated world once again. Taking it, Robin experiences a vivid vision based on her son's life - being born, seeing his mother for the first time, as an infant watching his mother act, as an older child being taken to Dr. Barker, as a young adult watching his mother leave for The Congress, finding his mother in suspended animation, as an adult when his mother revives and she explores the imaginary world, and finally Robin taking the capsule that will take her away from the real world forever. In the end, Robin discovers Aaron in the middle of an animated desert.
- Robin Wright as Robin Wright
- Paul Giamatti as Dr. Barker
- Jon Hamm as Dylan Truliner (voice) 
- Danny Huston as Jeff Green
- Harvey Keitel as Al
- Kodi Smit-McPhee as Aaron Wright
- Sami Gayle as Sarah Wright
- Michael Stahl-David as Steve
- August Wittgenstein as Travis
- Jörg Vincent Malotki as Man in Zeppelin
Relation to The Futurological Congress by Stanisław LemEdit
While some elements of the film were added by Ari Folman, others were based on the science-fiction novel The Futurological Congress by Stanisław Lem. Similarly to Lem's Ijon Tichy, the actress is split between delusional and real mental states. In an early interview about the film, Folman said,
"There is certainly nothing based on Lem in the first part of the movie. The second part is definitely different, but I used Lem's The Futurological Congress more as a source of inspiration, rather than the basis of the screenplay."
Later, at the official website of the film in an interview, Folman says that the idea to put Lem's work to film came to him during his film school. He describes how he reconsidered Lem's allegory of communist dictatorship into a more current setting, namely, the dictatorship in the entertainment industry, and expresses his belief that he preserved the spirit of the book despite going far away from it.
The animation was created by Bridgit Folman Films Gang, based in Israel, supervising six animation studios worldwide ("studio 352" in Luxemburg, "walking the dog" in Belgium, "bitteschoen" in Berlin, "studio Rakete" in Hamburg, "Studio Orange" in Poland, and "Snipple" in the Philippines). As in Waltz with Bashir, Folman worked with David Polonsky as the artistic director and Yoni Goodman as the animation director. Principal live-action filming was done in the United States and Germany from February to March 2011. Folman began working on the film in 2008, securing additional financing in 2011 from French bank Coficine-Natixis. The film was completed and released in 2013.
Many of the songs are composed by Richter himself, but the soundtrack also includes the Andante movement from Franz Schubert's Piano Trio No. 2, Frédéric Chopin's Nocturne Op.27-1 in C# minor, "Forever Young" from Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen's "If It Be Your Will". These last two songs were covered by Robin Wright.
|1.||Beginning and Ending||4:54|
|2.||Andante con moto from Trio in E-flat major, D.929||4:17|
|4.||On the Road to Abrahama 1||4:14|
|5.||In Her Reflection||1:18|
|6.||On the Road to Abrahama 2||1:15|
|7.||All Your Joys, All Your Pain||4:52|
|8.||In the Cosmic Lobby||2:19|
|9.||Out of the Dark||5:03|
|10.||The Rebel Attack||3:14|
|11.||Still Dreaming, Still Travelling||1:30|
|13.||Nocturne Op.27-1 in C# minor||1:15|
|14.||In the Garden of Cosmic Speculation||3:55|
|15.||Badass Agent Robin||1:03|
|16.||She Finds the Child||3:39|
|17.||If It Be Your Will||4:10|
|18.||Baby Escapo (Bonus Track)||5:22|
|19.||Charly's Song (Bonus Track)||3:04|
The Congress received positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 73% approval rating, based on reviews from 109 critics, with an average rating of 6.70/10. The website's critical consensus states: "The Congress rises on the strength of Robin Wright's powerful performance, with enough ambitious storytelling and technical thrills to overcome its somewhat messy structure." On Metacritic, the film has a 63/100 rating based on reviews from 31 critics, signifying "generally favorable reviews".
Scout Tafoya gave the movie 3½ stars in a 2014 review at RogerEbert.com , saying: "'The Congress' is a roll call of the orgiastic pleasures and bountiful comforts that art provides, and, a reminder of what waits for us when we leave the theater."
The movie won the 26th European Film Awards for the best animated feature film in 2013, as well as the Directors' Fortnight in the Cannes Film Festival. That same year, it won the Sitges Film Festival's Critics Award, too. In 2013, it was also nominated for Best Animation Film in the Gijon Film Festival.
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- The Congress (2013), retrieved 27 November 2018