Film review: Manifesto (2017).

Manifesto





Manifesto: Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐– 4/5.

Author: Sofía Murell | Runtime: 94 min. | Director: Julian Rosefeldt | Year: 2017.

Now that I see the runtime I realise that Manifesto is not that long. It probably felt long because I was thinking during the whole screening. I was reflecting on the words spoken by Cate Blanchett and I was captivated by the visual choices made by the director. I must confess that I want to watch it again.

Manifesto is not your everyday film. It is an actual manifesto collection fragmented and reassembled together into a 94 minute long monologue brought to life by the 13 characters played by Cate Blanchett. The narrative of the film is guided by these manifestos written by remarkable thinkers and artists of the 20th century; from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to Jim Jarmusch and Jean-Luc Godard. The manifestos include writings of Dadaists, Futurists, Dogma 95, and other influential art movements.

Manifesto is directed by German filmmaker and artist Julian Rosefeldt. The images of the film were first exhibited in a multi-screen film installation in the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in 2015. Hereafter, the installation was shown in Berlin, Wales, New York, and Hanover. The linear version of the film premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Rosefeldt combines his architectural background with stunning settings, as Manifesto was largely filmed in architectural milestones around Berlin. His vision of Manifesto concerns an homage to artist’s manifestos. Artists are an important element in Manifesto, and that is why we see several artists and individuals throughout the film who are in contact with their creative side. They perform and present art directly or indirectly – for instance, there is an almost surreal scene when a scientist (Cate Blanchett) walks around a building wearing a laboratory suit and discovers a room that is visually compelling. If taken out of context, this room could be a perfect art exhibition.

These 13 characters have different educational levels, professions, and social backgrounds. They vary from choreographer and puppeteer to a homeless man and a punk. When a new fragment starts with another character, you can easily forget that the previous one was also Cate Blanchett, as each role is so visually distinguishable from the other. Cate Blanchett’s fantastic performance also contributes to the particularity of the characters. All the protagonists have a monologue in which they talk to other people, to the camera, and they even narrate their thoughts. However, in some transitions, it can be difficult to realise whether the previous or the following character is narrating until we see the new image of Blanchett talking. Many of the monologues concern aspects of originality, the artist, and art itself. It is no wonder then that one actress portrays all the main roles of the film, as in Manifesto it is constantly repeated that ‘nothing is original’. Therefore, Blanchett’s characters are a copy of a transformed copy, remade into an original form which is Manifesto.

Moreover, these manifestos fit into the everyday life setting that is chosen for the various fragments. For instance, at a funeral a widow talks about Dadaism, Dada (the nihilistic and anti-aesthetic movement in which dada does not mean anything). Her monologue suits the mise-en-scène of that fragment, as it accentuates the debate on life and the afterlife. Another example, is a mother who prays to Claes Oldenburg’s ‘I Am For…’  with her family at the lunch table. Under this context we could ask ourselves: Is art greater than anything? Is it an omnipresent expression or practice?

Manifesto is certainly a film in which you have to pay attention. Rosefeldt’s carefully selected monologues communicate with each other, but, at the same time, these manifestos are nothing alike. It is each fragment, setting, and performance that bring the manifestos to life, where one can see differences and similarities. Manifesto will be an excellent film to analyse during a class on art and originality, or to use as a case study in your next essay. In short, Manifesto celebrates manifestos that shaped our contemporary culture in an original and creative way, making it a film that you want to watch more than once.

In Dutch theatres as from the 5th of October 2017.

Genre: Drama | Language: English | Dutch Distributor: Contact Film.

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