Dizzying Dystopia: Ari Folman’s The Congress

He’s the most exciting filmmaker we’ve got. No question. To think that he’s got his hands on Anne Frank’s Diary is exhilarating – he was actually summoned to the task, by The Anne Frank Foundation – but first we have to tackle his animated dizzying dystopia that is The Congress.

It was selected to open Cannes’ prestigious Directors Fortnight section, but mainstream audiences could have a harder time with it. The Congress is about an aging actress (Robin Wright, played by Robin Wright), who’s offered a once-in-a-lifetime deal – be cloned, live forever, on the screen, but never act again.

It’s a pretty shocking offer which comes from a nasty studio mogul, Jeff Green (Danny Huston), who runs the cunningly titled Miramount Studio; encouraged by Wright’s agent Al (Harvey Keitel).The story’s based on a cult Polish sci-fi novel, The Futurological Congress by Stanislav Lem, that Folman fell in love with as a youngster and hasn’t stopped reading since. Folman transports Lem’s action from the pharmaceuticals industry to Hollywood.
Everything about The Congress shows why Ari Folman is one of the greatest, boldest, most visionary and truly independent filmmakers on the planet right now – a single-handed calling card for Israel. Big philosophical questions about identity, state control, ownership and freedom are fused with satirical pokes at the movie business, outrageous visuals, and a powerful soundscape by Max Richter. Waltz With Bashir fans have waited 5 years for this; it’s unlikely they will be disappointed.
UK release: 15 August.
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