Year: 2017 (US release)
Director(s): Julian Rosefeldt
Writer(s): Julian Rosefeldt
Region of Origin: Germany

Rating: n/a
Digital, Color, 95 mins

Synopsis: Cate Blanchett performs manifestos as a series of striking monologues. (Source)

Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto is a tribute to the iconic manifestos of various movements and free thinkers who have shaped art as we know it. To fully appreciate this unique project, one has to consider its origins. Consisting of over a dozen vignettes, most ranging from about 2-3 minutes long, the film was originally an art installation, with each segment playing simultaneously across multiple screens. Each chapter features star Cate Blanchett as an archetype, reciting fiery monologues which contrast with her performances as various characters. In assembled form, the film naturally forms a fascinating statement about the role of art in our everyday lives, but acts as neither a traditional narrative or documentary. Instead, Rosefeldt has created something more immersive, a call to action that blends visual poetry with Blanchett’s chameleon-like talents.

Though art students or those with a deeper knowledge of art history will feel more at home with Rosefeldt’s film, it still resonates on a universal level. Fascinating throughout, the film thrives more as an impressionistic dialogue to the viewer, challenging us to meet it where its at, rather than a distant bystander. The movements covered within are as diverse as they can get, pulling from Pop Art, Futurism, Dada, Dogme 95 and concluding with a rousing speech from director Jim Jarmusch and Jean-Luc Godard, recited to children by Blanchett in her best stern professor impersonation. As we hear each monologue, delivered by Blanchett’s host of characters, a goth punk, house wife, news anchor, stock broker, hermit and more, a pattern loosely emerges, one that celebrates the very nature of art, poetry, and truth – how they each exist, resist and intersect within one another amid truth and spontaneity. Watching each segment, the idea of whether art and meaning can exist in a world of pre-meditated fallacy is brought up, making for an intellectually stimulating discourse. All of this is delivered in hypnotic form, with Rosefeldt’s witty visual juxtaposition and slow, gliding camera easing us in and out of the gaze of Blanchett’s characters.

Each vignette acts more as visual contrast than formed narrative, but Blanchett still gets to turn in some wild performances, both through the passionate delivery of each monologue and the diverse, eccentric characters that she plays. Blanchett works the camera like so many few can, both aware of its invasion to her characters’ inner workings, while also welcoming its dissection. Each character comes across with just a hint of self-awareness, finding a fine line between caricature and restraint. Honestly, the twelve characters contained within are worth the watch alone, with fun transformations that grab our attention and help to make it all digestible.

Art requires truth not sincerity. Steal everything. Everything I do is art is art. Just a few of the incendiary claims laid bare in Manifesto, which is a true collaboration between thought and image, an art piece that draws us in with blithe humor, but never feels less than genuine. What Rosefeldt has accomplished is something special for those looking for something outside the status quo. Seasoned art fan, arthouse fiend or casual moviegoer, there’s a lot going on in Manifesto, and it all collides to create a memorable explosion of how art shapes perception and gives us meaning.