It’s rare to be both thoroughly perplexed and entranced by the same movie, to be unsure of exactly how and why things are happening but to be moved and affected all the same.
“The Congress,” a metaphysical live action-animation hybrid from Israeli writer-director Ari Folman (“Waltz with Bashir”) achieves that effect by using the career and persona of Robin Wright to meditate on the ways our perceptions of reality have changed in the digital age.
A loose adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s novel “The Futurological Congress,” the picture offers a colorful futuristic animated cityscape populated by shape-shifting residents and gleaming edifices, rendered as broad, outsized caricatures.
It follows Wright, playing a version of herself, as (bear with me here) she agrees to surrender her on-screen identity to the animators at the Miramount studio and then, 20 years later, journeys into the animated world.
The drama centers on the advent of Miramount technology that allows people to physically morph into whomever they want to become, but it’s really a reflection on the ways we seek ownership of and internalize our relationships with our celebrities, evoking our increasing submission to the manufactured realities of digitized entertainment.
The picture is a brave venture for Wright, a terrific actress who opens up in an unprecedented way here, facilitating a deconstruction of, if not her actual persona, certainly that of a major Hollywood star in 2014.
The nuts and bolts of the narrative are hard to pin down; the picture is driven by its mood and tone, by the spirit of reflection and the proliferation of futurist imagery. It’s a one-of-a-kind vision of the way we live now and a warning shot across the bow of a society slowly submerging itself in technology.
Directed by Ari Folman
Starring Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, Jon Hamm
Playing at Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center