Movie #10: The Congress

thecongress Still05I guess it’s not surprising, but so often with independent films with sci-fi themes, you are never quite sure what you’re going to get. Being science fiction gives them the license to go almost anywhere with story and character because the anchoring concept can be something totally out-there. The Congress is an odd blend to say the least. The main character is Robin Wright, the actress who played the title character in the move The Princess Bride. She plays a character-version of herself as an actress with a young, special-needs son (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) and a daughter that she takes care of. One day the studio (o-so-cleverly named “Miramount”) makes her an offer she can’t refuse. She and her kids will be set for life if she will sign over all rights to herself as an actress. They will digitize her persona and create movies using her image as long as they wish. So at first it seems that this movie is going to be a not-to-distant-future sci-fi satire of the entertainment industry and how it makes commodities out of people. However, I had no idea how far beyond that things would go. Cut to 20 years later and Wright is invited to attend the Futurist Congress in a city called Abrahama within the “animation zone” (a virtual reality where everything and everyone is an animated cartoon). The rest of the movie is a huge head trip with all kinds of surreal visuals and over-my-head interactions. All kinds of things happen in Abrahama as Wright ends up inciting a kind of uprising and this weird reality gets even weirder. Reality vs. unreality is a persistent theme, but it’s definitely not as clear cut as a movie like The Matrix — yes, I called The Matrix “clear cut”. To say that I was confused by the movie was a bit of an understatement as it continues to play with the theme of reality as even viewers don’t understand what is meant to be real. Wright tries to get back to the real (non-animated) world, but that leads to an even more confusing ending (which I won’t spoil but it definitely left me a bit puzzled). Nevertheless, despite the off-putting weirdness, I did not hate this film. For starters, the concept (what I could grasp) is an intriguing one. I’ve often imagined what would happen once virtual actors can replace real ones. Also, the animated world is mesmerizing. Everyone looks a little weird because they have big heads and gigantic eyes, but when you use animation to cut loose the bonds of reality, you can really make some amazing visuals. It was like a combination of Bosch, Escher, Dali, all wrapped together in a coating of Loony Toons. This movie is definitely not for everyone, and I’m not even sure if it’s for me, but I’m still going to give it a 3 out of 5.

It’s been slow going, and I am definitely not going to make it to the finish line in time, but that’s number 10. “Only” 40 more to go!

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