Can the veil that separates Saturnine corporeal reality from the transcendent Neptunian realm actually be a cruel trick devised by Hollywood moguls? Yes, indeed, and it’s the premise of Ari Folman’s part live-action, part animated film The Congress, loosely based on the sci-fi novel by Stanisław Lem.
At the beginning of The Congress, the real, flesh-and-blood Robin Wright, playing a version of herself, is in the throes of a huge career decision. The middle-aged actress is being severely castigated by her long time agent (Harvey Keitel) and Miramount Studios CEO Jeff Green (Danny Huston) for having made “lousy choices.” Many of her movies have tanked and film offers have dried up.
There is a solution, offers Green. Robin can enter into an agreement with the studio, which will “scan” her, thereby preserving all her likenesses from her earlier cinematic triumphs. The studio will essentially “own” Robin’s avatar for the next two decades, doing with her visually and digitally as they see fit. Robin, in turn, must never make a movie again. It’s about sampling and preserving, says Green: “I need you for your history.”
Robin signs the contract which, in turn, allows her to care for her adolescent son Aaron (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who has a degenerative disease. Twenty years later, though, with Robin’s contract about to expire, she’s faced with another challenge. And here’s where The Congress gets ultra-trippy and goes full-blown animated.
Robin attends, as a digital representation of herself, the studio’s Futurist Congress, where all the attendees are similarly digitized entities, further blurring the lines between real and fantasy worlds. Green wants Robin to renew her contract with the studio but he ups the ante. If she signs, she’ll now be the studio’s hallucinatory property – something that can be chemically consumed and turned into fantasies by the imbibers. At this event, Robin meets Dylan Truliner (Jon Hamm), the animator who heads up the studio’s Robin Wright Department and who has, for years, both digitally recreated her and fallen in love with her.
No matter how distinct the flesh-and-blood Robin is from her digital self, the further into the movie we get, the more blurred – a typical Neptune hallmark – these two representations become. In fact, The entirety of The Congress is a clever paean to Neptune.
Under archetypal Neptune’s aegis are film, fakery, illusion, chemicals, merging of identities and fantasy, all of which are explored and referenced in the movie. The planet’s seductive nature applies, on the one hand, to what’s missing from the real Robin as a money-maker for the studio. And on the other, it’s her newly invigorated appeal as an entity who’s entered the Neptunian domain of the transcendent. Finally, the Neptunian archetype also rules that which has faded, as in a dream. Here, it’s Robin’s son. Will she find him? And in what form?
In the end, the movie pits Robin’s now aging Saturnian Senex, faced with the burdens of one’s physicality, against Neptune’s ability to totally shed material density and embrace a more vibrationally refined reality. As Green says, “The symbol is what we created.”
The Congress is an unflinching look at the consequences of passing through the seductive barrier between these feuding kingdoms.
Archetype: Futurist, Exploiter, Revisionist, Illusion, Merging
Astrology Archetype: ♄ ♆ (Saturn, Neptune)