By watching Manifesto, you either know what you are going to get or you don’t. It isn’t some major movie blockbuster with hard-core action scenes but a piece of art – an installation originally created by German artist and filmmaker Julian Rosefeldt. The film, which stars Cate Blanchett consists of 13 different characters, all of whom take on a role of a reader. Whether that be a classroom teacher, a mourner at a funeral, a homeless man, or a stock broker – they all provide us with monologues from famous manifestos on art movements from the 20th
The concept, whilst having good intentions differs from its execution. It starts off slowly and is a bit mind boggling. It takes its time to get into the true nature of the film. You don’t quite realise what is happening until a few minutes in. That’s when you grasp the true nature of this art installation turned feature length film.
With each of the 13 characters there are 13 different scenes. After each scene is done, you go straight to the next and each are unconnected to the last. Unlike a standard film there is no beginning, middle or end. The monologues at times, especially within certain scenes and from specific manifestos, would drag and soon after would just become long and tiring sentences filled with random and odd words. You lose sense of it all after a while. The mourner preaching on behalf of the Dadaist is a perfect example of this.
Manifesto is like one giant history lesson rolled into the space of an hour and a half film. What you remember by the end are the different and intense characters that Blanchett plays, what they look like and how they sound – the distinctive European accent of the choreographer being one of them. Not for once second will you remember any of the texts from the manifestos, which is the films’ whole point. How can you? Maybe along the way you pick up a few sentences, but it’s hard to keep up with texts from over 50 tracts.
Some of the readers that Blanchett portrays is very intriguing; the CEO at a private party, the conservative mother giving thanks at dinner with her family (who clearly look bored as she drags on with her speech about Pop Art) and a woman who works at a rubbish incinerator. All these characters and more provide the audience with a vivid and profound look into each of the movements from the 20th and 21st century.
What stands out the most is Blanchett. She portrays each of those 13 characters beautifully, even if you don’t quite understand some of the things she says, but what she does say, she does it with emotion and pure Oscar and BAFTA winning worthy talent.