Originally Published on Salty Popcorn
What is Manifesto all about? Good question. It’s not about anything, really. The characters aren’t characters, just different snapshots of different lives, and within each of these snapshots is an extended monologue. Each deals with the discussion of art, debating whether its lost its way and also the fundamentals upon which artists need to follow. It’s a commentary on creativity, showcased through intercut shorts. The film is an art project turned feature film, if feature film is even the right way of describing such an experience. There’s no real link between anything. Everything is made captivating and connected by the great Cate Blanchett, who takes on a main role in every story.
He seems passionate about art, and understands the subjectivity of it, but his messages can contradict. Points are raised about the way art is controlled or fabricated, yet his next monologue desires a different form of art entirely. Perhaps it’s about your point of view, but even then, they all wrap up together to deliver one final message in bewildering unison. They tie into each other, connecting the dots and delivering an impactful message on film criticism. He calls it out. He calls us out. The message works, you understand his point of view, and consequently there’s a shred of guilt flowing through me as I type out this review.
Certain ground rules are put in place and demanded, and it definitely won’t work well with everyone. Art impacts us in different ways, and MANIFESTO is a cry for individuality disguised occasionally in consumerism. One story sees Cate Blanchett playing a school teacher, and it’s entertaining and often daft, but it feels distant compared to everything else. It’s a portrait of those who wish for art to be a certain way, yet you can never tell if it’s revelling in the simplicity or showing it to us with a sense of irony. The line becomes blurred, and that’s the case with a few of the monologues. Messages are often unclear and certain speeches have a tendency to drag. The one hour mark felt closer to two.
MANIFESTO is an unusual film, in that it’s not really a film at all. There’s a complicated simplicity about it, and writer-director Julian Rosefeldt handles the subject matter in somewhat pretentious, but ultimately eye-opening fashion. This is a film that will resonate predominately with a select audience, but those who enjoy it will fall in love with its daring nature and deep, constant monologues.
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