© Pandora Filmverleih

The Congress
Israel/Germany/Poland/Luxembourg/France/Belgium 2013

Opening 12 Sep 2013

Directed by: Ari Folman
Writing credits: Stanislaw Lem, Ari Folman
Principal actors: Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, Jon Hamm, Paul Giamatti, Kodi Smit-McPhee

I never really understood the weight of the German phrase Wer bin ich und wenn ja, wie viele? (Who am I, and if yes, how many?), a question that will change the world in The Congress 20 years in the future. After giving up the rights to herself as a person to her studio, Miramount, former star actress Robin Wright (Robin Wright) has never acted again. Instead her body, her emotions and expressions have been used in many computer-generated movies in which Robin has been made into Triple R, an action heroine among others. The money from the contract has given Robin the means to take care of her ill son Aaron (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who suffers from the Usher Syndrome. Supposedly to honor her achievements, Robins leaves Aaron to attend her studio’s Futurological Congress – in a fully animated world. But when Robin enters it, she finds herself at quite a nightmarish and bizarre place. Trying to make sense of what she is experiencing, sarcastic room service robots scold her saying that “ultimately everything makes sense and that it is all in her head.” Eventually, she finds out she is to become a symbol of the next step in Miramount’s evolution. They have found a way to break her person down into chemical information that can be consumed by other people. This novelty is enthusiastically received by roaring masses. Robin now reflects on what her choice 20 years ago has done to herself and society and voices her concern. Soon after being dragged away from the stage, all hell breaks loose. At this point, animation and reality are so mixed up that Robin cannot distinguish one from the other any more. When she decides to find out the truth, reality is not at all what she expected.

A quick summary of this movie would be The Matrix meets cartoon meets LSD. But in The Matrix, we had Neo heralding salvation. In The Congress, we have people who give away choices and make poor use of the ones they are left with. This movie takes “panem et circenses” (bread and circus) to a whole new level. What kind of world do we live in where people desperately want to not be themselves? There are many more layers to this film, which made it hard for me to follow sometimes (awful subtitles confused me some more). The pictures made me want not to ever take LSD – I did not always enjoy them. Yet, this movie is a good film if you are not necessarily looking for a good time. I left the movie theater in a pensive and subdued mood since the questions arising in the movie are relevant for us as a society right now. Technologically, we should be able to somewhat reconstruct the opportunities of The Congress pretty soon. And I must admit that I am not sure we will not be confronted with the same circumstances 20 years later. (Katia Trost)

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