Database for Animation Studies


Animation in the Core of Dystopia: Ari Folman’s The Congress

Ari Folman’s The Congress (2013) borrows freely from Stanisław Lem’s dystopian view in his Sci-fi novel The Futurological Congress (1971) to propose the gradual dissolution of the human into an artificial form, which is animation. By moving the action of the novel from a hypothetical future to contemporary Hollywood, Ari Folman gives CGI animation the role of catalyst for changes not only in the production system, but for human thought and, therefore, for society. This way, the film ponders the changing role of performers at the time of their digitalization, as well as on the progressive dematerialization of the film industry, considering a dystopian future where simulation fatally displaces reality, which invites relating The Congress with Jean Baudrillard’s and Alan Cholodenko’s theses on how animating technologies have resulted in the culture of erasing. Moreover, this article highlights how Lem’s metaphor of the manipulation of information in the Soviet era is transformed in the second part of The Congress into a vision of cinema as a collective addiction, relating it to Alexander Dovzhenko’s and Edgar Morin’s speculative theories of total film – which come close to the potentialities of today’s Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. In addition, although The Congress is a disturbing view of film industry and animating technologies, its vision of film is nostalgically retro as it vindicates an entire tradition of Golden Age animation that transformed the star system into cartoons, suggesting the fictionalization of their lives and establishing a postmodern continuum between animation and film.

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Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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