The Congress (2013 film)

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The Congress
French promotional poster
Directed byAri Folman
Screenplay byAri Folman
Based onThe Futurological Congress
by Stanisław Lem
Produced byDiana Elbaum
David Grumbach
Eitan Mansuri
Jeremiah Samuels
StarringRobin Wright
CinematographyMichal Englert
Edited byNili Feller
Music byMax Richter
Pandora Filmproduktion
Distributed by
  • ARP Sélection (France)[1]
  • Cinéart (Belgium/Luxembourg)[2]
  • Pandora Film Verleih (Germany)[3]
  • Gutek Film (Poland)[4]
Release dates
  • 15 May 2013 (2013-05-15) (Cannes)
  • 3 July 2013 (2013-07-03) (France)
Running time
123 minutes[5]
Budget€8 million[6]
Box office$356,172[7]

The Congress is a 2013 live-action/animated science-fiction drama film written and directed by Ari Folman, based on Stanisław Lem's 1971 Polish science-fiction novel The Futurological Congress. It stars Robin Wright as a fictionalized version of herself who agrees to have a film studio use a digital clone of her in any film they want. The Congress then flashes forward twenty years later to her travels in the studio's animated utopia world, where anyone can become an avatar of themselves, but are required to use hallucinogenic drugs to enter a mutable illusory state. The Congress premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival on 15 May 2013.[8] Independent film distributor Drafthouse Films announced, along with Films We Like In Toronto, their co-acquisition of the North American rights to the film and a US theatrical and VOD/digital release planned for 2014.[9]


Robin Wright is an aging actress with a reputation for being fickle and unreliable which prevents her from getting a lot of roles. Her son, Aaron, suffers from Usher syndrome, which is slowly destroying his sight and hearing. With the help of Dr. Barker, Robin barely manages to stave off the worst effects of her son's decline, although his condition is sliding into its terminal stage.

Robin's longtime agent Al takes her to meet Jeff Green, the CEO of Miramount Studios, a film studio that offers to buy her likeness and digitize her into a computer-animated version of herself. Realizing she may be unable to find future work with the emergence of this new technology, Robin agrees to do it for a hefty sum of money. She is also forced to promise never to act again. After her body is digitally scanned, the studio is able to make films starring her, using only computer-generated characters. Robin's virtual persona becomes the star of a popular film franchise, Rebel Robot Robin.

Twenty years later, Robin travels to Abrahama City, where she will speak at the "Futurological Congress", Miramount's entertainment conference. Abrahama City is an animated, surreal utopia that is created from figments of people's imaginations, where anyone can become an animated avatar of themselves but is required to use hallucinogenic drugs to enter a mutable illusory state. While discussing her new contract with Jeff, Robin learns that the studio has developed a new technology that will allow anyone to devour her or possibly transform themselves into her with the hallucinogen. Robin agrees to the deal, but has a crisis of conscience, believing that no one should be turned into a product.

When asked to speak to the public at the Congress, Robin publicly voices her contrary views, upsetting everyone there. Shortly afterward, the Congress is interrupted by a group of rebels ideologically opposed to the technology industry. They seemingly assassinate the head of the Congress. During the attack, Robin is rescued by Dylan Truliner, who was Miramount's lead animator for her films. They escape, but she is soon captured by "Miramount Police" where Robin is seemingly executed by Jeff as a punishment for rebelling against Miramount and the Congress. Robin is shown on a hospital bed while doctors discuss her case. One doctor reveals that Robin's execution her hallucinating that her rescuers were from Miramount. The doctors decide that Robin has become so intoxicated by the hallucinogen that she must be frozen until a treatment for her condition can be found.

Twenty years further on, Robin is revived while still hallucinating an animated world. She reunites with Dylan, who tells her that the hallucinogenic technology is now widespread. People can take on whatever form they wish through it and as a result many negative aspects of humanity no longer exist. Dylan and Robin fall in love and take a journey through a colorful imaginary world. However, Robin is still desperate to return to the real world and be with her son, Aaron. The only way to do that is using a suicide capsule that Dylan was given by Miramount, as his reward for twenty years of service. He gives it to Robin.

Re-entering the real world, Robin finds herself in a dystopian environment where the inhabitants are severely dysfunctional. Those who are still able to cope in the real world hover over ruined cities in large airships. Most people have left for an existence in the animated world. Aaron did it only six months earlier when his condition left him virtually blind and deaf. Because Aaron likely created a new identity for himself in the animated world, there is no way for anyone to find him.

While Robin can return to an animated existence, she cannot go back to the one she left behind, including Dylan, as that world was not real, but created by her consciousness. Dr. Barker gives Robin an inhalation ampoule that will allow her to return to the animated world. Taking it, Robin sees her son's entire life flash before her eyes. In the end, she discovers Aaron in the middle of an animated desert.


Relation to The Futurological Congress by Stanisław Lem[edit]

While some elements of the film were added by Ari Folman, others were based on the science-fiction novel The Futurological Congress by Stanisław Lem. Similarly, to Lem's Ijon Tichy, the actress is split between delusional and real mental states. In an early interview about the film, Folman said,[11]

"There is certainly nothing based on Lem in the first part of the movie. The second part is definitely different, but I used Lem's The Futurological Congress more as a source of inspiration, rather than the basis of the screenplay."

Later, at the official website of the film in an interview, Folman says that the idea to put Lem's work to film came to him during his film school. He describes how he reconsidered Lem's allegory of communist dictatorship into a more current setting, namely, the dictatorship in the entertainment industry, and expresses his belief that he preserved the spirit of the book despite going far away from it.[12]


The animation was created by Bridgit Folman Films Gang, based in Israel, who worked on the script for 19 years.[13] Folman supervised six animation studios worldwide ("studio 352" in Luxemburg, "walking the dog" in Belgium, "bitteschoen" in Berlin, "studio Rakete" in Hamburg, "Studio Orange" in Poland, and "Snipple" in the Philippines). As in Waltz with Bashir, Folman worked with David Polonsky as the artistic director and Yoni Goodman as the animation director. Principal live-action filming was done in the United States and Germany from February to March 2011.[10][14] Folman began working on the film in 2008,[15] securing additional financing in 2011 from French bank Coficine-Natixis.[16] The film was completed and released in 2013.[8]


Max Richter, who had previously worked with Folman in Waltz with Bashir, created the soundtrack of The Congress.[17] Many of the songs are composed by Richter himself, but the soundtrack also includes the Andante movement from Franz Schubert's Piano Trio No. 2, Frédéric Chopin's Nocturne Op.27-1 in C# minor, "Forever Young" from Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen's "If It Be Your Will". These last two songs were covered by Robin Wright.[18]

Milan Entertainment, Inc. launched the soundtrack (in digital format) on 2 July 2013.[19]

Title Duration
1. Beginning and Ending 4:54
2. Andante con moto from Trio in E-flat major, D.929 4:17
3. Winterreise 2:09
4. On the Road to Abrahama 1 4:14
5. In Her Reflection 1:18
6. On the Road to Abrahama 2 1:15
7. All Your Joys, All Your Pain 4:52
8. In the Cosmic Lobby 2:19
9. Out of the Dark 5:03
10. The Rebel Attack 3:14
11. Still Dreaming, Still Travelling 1:30
12. Forever Young 4:03
13. Nocturne Op.27-1 in C♯ minor 1:15
14. In the Garden of Cosmic Speculation 3:55
15. Badass Agent Robin 1:03
16. She Finds the Child 3:39
17. If It Be Your Will 4:10
18. Baby Escapo (Bonus Track) 5:22
19. Charly's Song (Bonus Track) 3:04


The Congress received positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 73% approval rating, based on reviews from 109 critics, with an average rating of 6.70/10. The website's critical consensus states: "The Congress rises on the strength of Robin Wright's powerful performance, with enough ambitious storytelling and technical thrills to overcome its somewhat messy structure."[20] On Metacritic, the film has a 63/100 rating based on reviews from 31 critics, signifying "generally favorable reviews".[21]

Keith Uhlich of The A.V. Club named The Congress the sixth-best film of 2014, tying it with the re-release of Level Five.[22]

In 2013, The Congress won the Best Animated Feature Film Award at the 26th European Film Awards.[23]

Scout Tafoya gave the movie 3½ stars in a 2014 review at, saying: "'The Congress' is a roll call of the orgiastic pleasures and bountiful comforts that art provides, and, a reminder of what waits for us when we leave the theater."[24]


The movie won the 26th European Film Awards for the best animated feature film in 2013, as well as the Directors' Fortnight in the Cannes Film Festival. That same year, it won the Sitges Film Festival's Critics Award, too. In 2013, it was also nominated for Best Animation Film in the Gijon Film Festival.[25]


The film found renewed relevance a decade later, during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Several writers noted similarities between the movie and real life events, where SAG-AFTRA organizers claimed that the film studios had put forward an artificial intelligence proposal that would permit them to scan actors' bodies in exchange for a day's compensation and retain the rights to their image in perpetuity. Caryn James writing for the BBC in 2023 found the plot of The Congress to be "eerily prescient".[26][27][28][29][30]


  1. ^ "ARP Sélection launches the Congress in 111 cinemas". 3 July 2013.
  2. ^ "The Congress".
  3. ^ "The Congress | PANDORA FILM Verleih".
  4. ^ "Kongres (2013) Ari Folman".
  5. ^ "THE CONGRESS (15)". StudioCanal. British Board of Film Classification. 23 April 2014. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  6. ^ "The Congress". IMDb.
  7. ^ "The Congress".
  8. ^ a b Richford, Rhonda (19 April 2013). "Cannes: Ari Folman's 'The Congress' to Open Directors' Fortnight". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  9. ^ Husney, Evan (6 May 2013). "Drafthouse Films Journeys to 'The Congress'". Drafthouse Films. Archived from the original on 3 November 2014. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  10. ^ a b Heron, Ambrose (17 May 2011). "First footage from Ari Folman's The Congress". FILMdetail. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  11. ^ Ari Folman on the Genius of Stanislaw Lem – interview (March 2011)
  12. ^ "The Congress, a Film by Ari Folman" Archived 20 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine (retrieved 27 August 2014)
  13. ^ Egan, Toussaint (27 June 2023). "The Congress' live action, animation, and AI combo makes it the most 2023 movie". Polygon. Retrieved 14 July 2023.
  14. ^ "The Congress". 'Robin Wright' – a fan site. Archived from the original on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  15. ^ Fischer, Russ (23 December 2011). "'The Congress,' From 'Waltz With Bashir' Director, Will Be Roughly 60% Live-Action, 40% Animated". /Film. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  16. ^ Hopewell, John (7 September 2011). "Ari Folman's 'The Congress' rounds up coin". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  17. ^ "Max Richter Scoring 'The Congress'". 7 May 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  18. ^ "Robin Wright sings "FOREVER YOUNG" in "The Congress"". July 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2014.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ "'The Congress' Soundtrack Details". 20 June 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  20. ^ "The Congress (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 20 November 2022.
  21. ^ "The Congress Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  22. ^ "2014 Favorites With Keith Uhlich (Part 1)". The Cinephiliacs. 4 January 2015. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  23. ^ "Winners 2013". European Film Awards. European Film Academy. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
  24. ^ Tafoya, Scout (29 August 2014). "Reviews: The Congress". Retrieved 20 December 2022.
  25. ^ The Congress (2013), retrieved 27 November 2018
  26. ^ Lattanzio, Ryan (2 December 2014). "The Celebrity Body Scanning Technology of Ari Folman's 'The Congress' Proves All Too Ominously Real". IndieWire. Retrieved 14 July 2023.
  27. ^ "A.I. Filmmaking Is A Terrible Idea, And One Underseen Movie Shows Us Why". /Film. 8 May 2023. Retrieved 14 July 2023.
  28. ^ Welk, Brian (11 July 2023). "The 3 Biggest A.I. Questions That Should Have Actors Worried". IndieWire. Retrieved 14 July 2023.
  29. ^ Egan, Toussaint (27 June 2023). "The Congress' live action, animation, and AI combo makes it the most 2023 movie". Polygon. Retrieved 14 July 2023.
  30. ^ "How 2013 film the Congress predicted Hollywood's current AI crisis".

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