The Congress - Blu-ray Review

'If the concepts are intriguing to consider then there is a level of sadness in concluding that they are not as intriguing as they should be to experience.'

Whatever you think of The Congress there can be little doubt now that director Ari Folman is on to something. If his previous film, Waltz With Bashir, used animation to cathartically explore and discuss memory, and ideas and concepts he felt uncomfortable discussing in the 'real world', then this film takes that a stage further. What if out future was escapist animation? What if entertainment could go one stage further than it does now? What if we didn't just watch Tom Cruise, we became him, even if only for a brief time?

If the concepts are intriguing to consider then there is a level of sadness in concluding that they are not as intriguing as they should be to experience. Unlike his previous, Folman's methods do not mix with his ideas. Too often the animated world of The Congress feels showy, random and over-saturated. In Waltz With Bashir, the animation was message. Here it is often distraction. Not only that but it is also unbalanced. There is a late reveal, which is effective, but without the knowledge it brings, as you are for much of the film's animated section, The Congress becomes aimless; the animated segment unfocused and distant from the other plot elements.

There is also a frustrating lack of polish in the technical execution and the storytelling. In the opening, where Robin Wright (Robin Wright) is told that the studio want her to do one last job: a scan that will render her acting presence entirely under studio control, the actor is consistently told how her choices have been 'lousy'. You can say the same for some of Folman's. The dreadful lensing and lighting of the early scenes might purposefully hint at artificiality, but there are ways of doing even that in a convincing and nice-to-look at manner. This is neither. Wright's children are given a script that makes them sound the other side of loquacious. Even Sami Gayle, who was incredibly impressive in Detachment and builds on that here, cannot sell all of this dialogue.

Despite notable problems, Folman's continuing experiment is by no means a complete failure. The finale is effective and occasionally beautiful, the script finally finding a home. 'You can wait for death here, in this filth of truth', a character poetically tells Robin Wright, before offering her another way. Some ideas too, such as the nature of entertainment and consumerism, are more realised than others; the Hollywood bashing doesn't really feel up to much.

So where Waltz With Bashir was a complete animated success, this live action hybrid finds some bum notes. Folman's search for something new goes on and even if this is a minor setback, I for one am looking forward to what he finds next.

The Congress is released on UK DVD and Blu-ray on Monday 8th December 2014.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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