Monday, 4 August 2014

NZIFF Review - The Congress and When Animals Dream

NZIFF Review - The Congress and When Animals Dream

Sci-fi and satire are the order of the day of The Congress, from the director of Waltz with Bashir, Ari Folman.

Starring Robin Wright, and inspired by Stanislaw Lem's novel The Futurlogical Congress, it's the story of the actress Robin Wright, considered washed up by the Miramount studio. Unable to secure work for years, due to demands and concerns over looking after her son, Robin's offered one last contract by the studios to hand over her digital image so they can do what they want with her.

The only condition is she can never act again...

The Congress is a surrealist piece of cinema, that dances the line between head-scratching and reality with ease. But in among the animated weirdness, there's also a satire that hits at Hollywood and current pre-occupations with digital rights and intellectual property. Half animated, the film waltzes a line between Yellow Submarine with some truly gorgeous animation that is psychedelic and intoxicating to look at, as it mixes the line between sending up characters you know from Hollywood via classic WB animation with a dash of Ren and Stimpy.  It's the visual style which soars here initially before you immediately become accustomed to it.

And once you do, you realise that The Congress is quite a sad piece and potentially a warning to Hollywood over where it's going - there's no way that Folman's not constructed a piece which fires a shot over their bows telling them that the extremes they've painted in this picture could signal an interesting debate somewhere down the line. Pre-occupations with Hollywood fads, women in movies, ownership of properties - it's all up here for the discussion. There's a lot to debate and think on after this film - and towards the end of the NZIFF, that's no bad thing.

Elsewhere, When Animals Dream may at first glance appear to be that horror trope we've seen before - girl's awakening sexually brings out the animal in her (Ginger Snaps, anyone?).

But in this restrained Danish thriller, newcomer Sonia Suhl is our heroine Marie, who begins working at the local fish factory but comes to realise her family is harbouring a terrible secret.

Mixing atmospherics among the shots of moody coastline, director Jonas Alexander Arnby has brought a piece that's dark in tone and rich in subtext, while also proffering a few scares here and there. However, it's Suhl's piece as she channels the uncertainty and awkwardness of the age while probing into her family's secret background. As Marie's world changes, the film moves to the more stock standard werewolf tropes and horrified reactions, but it loses none of its impact and subtleties throughout.


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