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Film / The Congress

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The Congress is a 2013 French-Israeli Science Fiction film loosely based on the Stanisław Lem novel The Futurological Congress. It is directed by Ari Folman and stars Robin Wright, who also co-produced. The film also stars Harvey Keitel, Danny Huston and Paul Giamatti in supporting roles.

Robin Wright plays herself as an actress whose fickleness and unpredictability ruined a very promising career and who is slowly aging out of her beauty. She is offered one last chance by Miramount Studios: they will buy the digital image rights from her in exchange for a large sum of money and a promise never to act again. Miramount will scan her body and expressions and be able to create a perfect digital version of Robin they can use on screen. With an ailing son to take care of and her career prospects vanishing, Robin agrees. Twenty years later the 'real' Robin attends the Futurological Congress as a guest, a Miramount presentation over their new drug that allows people to transform themselves into animated avatars, including Robin herself who has signed away the rights so that people can become her. The Congress takes place in an illusionary, animated universe that initially charms but quickly repels Robin. The film is half life action and half animated, representing the 'real' and 'chemical party' universes.


This Film contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: The film character most associated with the the Robin Wright avatar.
  • Adam Westing: A very unusual case as it is played for pathos rather than comedy. The film version of Robin Wright is someone whose career declined much more steeply than her real life counterpart and whose poor choices and unreliability as an actress are invoked for devastating effect. The fictional Robin also has a son who has a degenerative condition destined to leave him blind and deaf.
  • Arc Words: "Are you Robin Wright?" during the second act.
  • Brainless Beauty: Averted. The digital movie version of Robin from twenty years into the future, gives a completely vapid 'interview' about her latest movie, which depresses the actual Robin.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Sarah, Robin's (in universe) daughter is very snarky and rude.
  • Defector from Decadence: Robin during her speech at the congress excoriates the entire premise of pharmacological utopia, predicting that guilt would eventually haunt them all. Oddly, she was wrong. It is utopic, in the time skip after the congress and her waking up the ability to be whoever you want makes division and discrimination obsolete... but this utopia is not going to last. See Terminally Dependent Society.
  • Deranged Animation: The illusionary drug induced world, bringing to mind some of the crazier animation of the 1930s mixed with Yellow Submarine.
  • Determinator: Robin will stop at nothing to reunite with her son, even crossing realities for him. Twice.
  • Exty Years from Now: The movie starts in more or less the present ( actually 2010, based upon the licence tags on future-Robin's vehicle, then leaps twenty years ahead about a third of the way through, then leaps ahead a further twenty years later in the film.
  • False Utopia: In the drug-induced world you can be anyone or anything you want while the civilization of the "real" world falls apart.
  • Human Popsicle: Robin. After the rebel attack she got hit with so much hallucinogen she could no longer distinguish reality, so she was frozen until she could be healed.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Part of the premise; you can be anyone you want to be thanks to Miramount. Robin plays the trope straight though.
  • La Résistance: The Miramount Hotel gets raided by one of these after Robin's statement at the congress. They manage to take over the management floor of Miramount Nagasaki and stop the chemical flow, but they ultimately fail to stop the ampules from being widely used, making it ultimately a failed rebellion. After the second timeskip it's indicated that Sarah and other rebellion members ultimately gave in and created new lives on the "other side."
  • Lotus-Eater Machine
  • Medium Blending: A mix of live action and animation.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: A fellow has-been actor Robin runs into at the Futurological Congress looks and sounds suspiciously like that guy from ''Top Gun''.
    • Then there's Reeve Bobs, who looks and speaks in his keynote address a lot like a former computer company founder and exec.
    • Numerous other famous people are replicated in animation.
  • Older Than They Look: Dr. Barker. In the present day, he has to be at least in his 40s, if not early 50s. After the second time jump, which takes place at least 40 years into the future, he certainly doesn't look or act like someone who is at minimum in his 80s. Although futuristic tech might be the reason why, the film does go out of its way to point out that medical advancements have been pretty well put aside in favor of the chemicals used to create the fantasy world most people live in.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Robin has a Heroic BSoD because she feels uncomfortable with the cartoon world, then, she smashes a mirror headbutting it.
  • The Singularity: For all intents and purposes the illusionary world created by Miramount.
  • Stepford Smiler: Tom Cruise.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: Jeff Green defaults to this if his usual softspoken rhetoric fails to sway his audience.
  • Terminally Dependent Society: Since everyone is living inside a chemically induced utopia, hardly anyone is actually working. Those in the chemical utopia have no idea what's going on in the "other side of the truth" (aka the real world). Miramount is basically watching over large masses of homeless unemployed, and they aren't even being evil. Worse, hardly anyone is even breeding, humanity may become extinct.
  • Time Skip: Two, actually. The first between when Robin gets digitally-photographed and first visits the chemical party, and the second when she is cryogenically-frozen. The latter, as Robin says, is rather ambiguous as to how large the time skip is, though she later learns that it was about twenty years when she learns what happened to Aaron.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future
  • Unreliable Narrator
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Robin's agent Al is last seen just before the time skip, though given his age in the present and how many years pass he is quite possibly dead.
    • Jeff Green likewise vanishes from the narrative after apparently shooting Robin in the head, though as this and several other manifestations of him are implied to be dreams or hallucinations, the "real" Green more likely exits the narrative around the time the MC of the Congress is assassinated. His ultimate fate is not revealed, including whether he survived the attack or not.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The rebels might be fighting the good fight, but they still attack the animated hotel with missiles and other weaponry, after one of their agents assassinates the Congress' MC. The style of animation leaves it ambiguous if many innocents die in the attack, however.

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