The Congress


Not so long ago, stories of how digital technology was going to change cinema were rife. Not just in terms of improved visuals and sound, but in the digitisation of actors; they used the examples of Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe and suggested that they could once again physically appear in new features.

It didn't happen. Or, more accurately, it hasn't happened yet; director Ari Folman uses this premise as his jumping off point for his latest project.

boom reviews - The Congress
Robin Wright gets really animated in her latest role.

Actress Robin Wright (Robin Wright) is having a heavy discussion with her agent Al (Harvey Keitel) regarding an offer her studio Miramount are proposing. He's reminding her that not only is she not getting any younger, which is obviously the number one sin in Hollywood if you’re not male, but that her last couple of films have been stinkers and she's made some terrible career choices of late. His advice then, is to think seriously about what they're offering.

And it is this: they would like to digitise the 44-year-old actress, recreating her exact likeness and using it for various projects in their virtual worlds. The benefit of this is that she could be 24 again, but remain so for the rest of her career. The one caveat they have is that she can never act again in real life.

Although initially wholly against the idea, she decides to concede on the grounds that her son is ill.

Twenty years later and Wright, now sixty four, is making her way to Abrahama, where she will be a guest speaker at the Futurological Congress. However, she will be appearing in an animated state, along with everyone else, as the studio launches its latest technology, where anyone can transform into whomever they want in an animated avatar form.

It doesn't take long for her to decide that it all sounds like a terrible idea, but convincing everyone else the same in this animated world isn't going to be easy.

boom reviews - The Congress
Well I didn't invite Sean Penn, did you?

Israeli director Folman is no stranger to the world of animation: he directed 2008's Oscar-nominated Waltz with Bashir. He goes for something slightly different here though, blending live-action and animation throughout.

Although the premise is all about digitising actors, Bashir goes for a fairly low-tech approach when it comes to the animated scenes. Although often crude in presentation compared to today's slick CGI standards, they carry a retro charm similar in design to Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies in days of old.

It's not just the advances in technology that Bashir focuses on however, as he probes deeper questions on his animated journey.

It was certainly an incredibly brave role for Wright to accept; she doesn't only represent all actresses and their outrageously short shelf-life (compared to their male counterparts), but takes a few personal hits for the team, with many references to her career, both good and bad.

As the film goes on, and certainly during its animated sections, it often takes on ethereal and philosophical qualities, so the successor to Who Framed Roger Rabbit this isn't. It is both bold and daring, offering as it does a disturbing path, which perhaps we're already on, with societies obsessed with personalities to the point of wanting to physically become them, albeit in cartoon form.

And you've got to love a film that pays homage to 1970's The Phantom Tollbooth, which was a relatively early example of Hollywood experimenting with a mix of live action and animation.

It may try to answer too many questions towards its end, but the journey as a whole is a curiously fascinating one and will no doubt draw you in.

we give this four out of five