By Linda Winsh-Bolard
Israeli director Ari Folman is best known for " Waltz with Bashir , " an animated film with moral questions.
Don't expect anything similar.
Congress is a loose adaption of a novel by Stanislaw Lem. Lem envisioned a society under a dictatorship, whether local or global is unclear in the film, where the ruling class lives in real world and subjects majority of citizens to poverty and fear. Remaining citizens spend their lives under chemically induced dream. In their dream they can decide who and where they are, while their sub consciousness is reacting to a chemical that transports them into colorful, unreal world of combined dreams.
Ari Fulman frames his film around the story of aging actress Robin Wright (she plays herself) who, after extremely lucky break, made number of irresponsible and bad choices and ended up with few options. Robin, who has two children, an ambitious daughter and a disabled son, decides to let the studio to scan her image to be used in all kinds of computer generated films.
Some twenty years later Robin drives her Porsche Cayman into a desert to enter Abrahama City, a city where everyone, with the help of an ampule of chemicals, becomes an animated character; some of themselves, some of others. Their chemically induced reality is actually just their perception of the world.
The adventure ends badly and Robin is frozen to be revived when the technology needed help her becomes available. That takes decades and when she does wake up, the world is a colorful comics.
The film follows Lem' s idea loosely, but there is a dark, real side on the other side of this painting.
The film is wordy. Particularly when the characters are in real world, the monologues and dialogs are lengthy, over explanatory and often should have been cut down.
Stripped of color and Lem's vision of the future, the story becomes a journey of devoted mother to her disabled son. Robin seems to expect that everyone must bend to her need to be with her children and stand by her son. I found that unrealistic. In Robin's expectations and also in the written self obsession with sacrifices of a Mother, capital letter intended.
It irritated me that Robin was so clearly thought to be so special by so many, when I could not find anything special about her. I am so tired of stories of the poor, lucky ones who had troubles to handle their luck. Would they rather be unknown and poor?
Lem's philosophy of dictatorship that keeps people in the line by feeding them drug induced dreams is somewhat complicated: the film states that once the chemical is inhaled, the person ceases to exist in real world- in that case, do the bodies evaporate? It is not straight up killing, Robin came back using another chemical, so what is it? Is there no shortage of labor in the real world, if so many "cease to exist"? Who decides to stay and endure poverty, helplessness and hard work? Why?
And why would the dictators use such chemical? It might reduce the enemy, but it will make it hard to run a society with able few people in it.
About half of the film is acted, half animated. The acting, the film is star studded, is generally good even though, as I said, unwieldy lines, heavy handed and unnecessary, crowd the sound, ut the actors handle them better than most would.. Robin is standoffish and distant Al, her agent (Harvey Keitel) an old manipulator, Paul Giamatti the doctor in the know and so on.
I have heard that the absent Tom Cruise played by Evant Ferrante missed on his best film part.
The animation is colorful, lush, sprouting and adds to confusion in the vein of Avatar. Number of characters parade around the screen apparently just playing the background to Robin and her followers.
Exploring the power of mind and politics gets largely lost in all that. Still, if you enjoy combination of animation and action, sci-fi and conspiracy, it might just work for you.
Directed by: Ari Folman Written:Stanislaw Lem (novel), Ari Folman (adaptation) , Camera: Michal Englert Stars: Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, Jon Hamm, Paul Giamatti, Danny Huston and others