After the critical acclaim that greeted his animated documentary Waltz With Bashir, director Ari Folman’s new film The Congress (review) depicts a dystopian potential future for the film industry, which has already been described as “the most anti-Hollywood film ever made”.
Robin Wright plays a fictionalised version of herself (that’s her pictured, in animated form): once on the brink of becoming a huge star, her career is now halted after a combination of poor choices and prioritising her family over her work.
The Miramount Studio offers her one final contract – a deal in which she’ll be scanned in order to allow the company to use her digitised self as the forever-young star in any movie they like. It forces her retirement from the world of ‘real’ acting. All control is lost in favour of a hefty final pay cheque.
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Thank God the human brain can’t transform a 100-page script into a film in your imagination…
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Logically, says Folman, an actor’s ability to control his career is a result of any prior success that he has enjoyed.
“But you can never predict what will happen with a certain film,” he says. What looks convincing as a script doesn’t always translate to a successful end product. “Thank God the human brain can’t transform a 100-page script into a film in your imagination. This is why we have so many surprises with films; both good and bad surprises.”
Much to Folman’s surprise the scanning technology shown in the film – which was also depicted in Leos Carax’s Holy Motors – is real, albeit currently without the final application that his story depicts.
“I’m sure this is the dream of many producers and some directors,” he laughs, but it’s easy to understand their view. Movie stars would be unencumbered by their own desires and failings, and even by their own mortality. Studios could simply endlessly recycle whoever works for whatever project might be profitable at the time.
Yet, as Folman states, “you can never entirely predict what new technology means,” which he illustrates with a story of how he, as a film student, was told that IMAX would be the unrelenting future of cinema. As a cineaste romantic, he believes that this technology won’t triumph over live acting talent. But the next generation, he concedes, might think differently.
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Words: Ben Hopkins
The Congress is in British cinemas now, distributed by Studio Canal.