Manifesto is an intellectual thought piece directed and written by Julian Rosefeldt (The Creation) and stars Cate Blanchett (Carol, Oceans 8 I could go on, she’s the lady with great cheekbones in literally any movie) in an outstanding 13 different roles. Since manifesto is a pretty tricky thing to understand unless you’re into this sort of thing, here’s a quick definition; a manifesto is a public declaration of policies and aims. It’s kind of the posh intellectual version of someone saying “I want to do A, B and C to combat 1, 2, 3”.
Manifesto is a film to make you think and reflect. It draws attention to manifestos of the past, and you can see how they relate in the political, economic and social context of the 21st century. A recurring theme throughout the film is how art can only be true without sincerity, and that nothing matters unless it is true. Released in 2015 it kind of presents this timeless image of the world, and the manifestos themselves contribute to this feeling where the film could be set in any period and still be relevant.
Blanchett truly shines in this movie. She plays 13 different characters, 2 of which interact with each other (both called Cate which I found amusing). She carries the film and really dedicates herself to the personas, and it shows in her performance. Blanchett transforms herself so easily that you sort of forget it’s her in every scene as every character. Even the creepy puppet maker was good. My favourite shots were when she looked right into the camera and spoke, the way its set up feels like she was talking specifically to whoever was watching and driving her point into their consciousness.
I found the main problem with Manifesto was its intellectualism, and I really struggled to understand a lot of what was going on. Instead of dumbing down the language for the general audience, Rosefeldt directly quotes from the people who wrote the manifestos, creating a jargon-filled mind fuck. I also struggled a little bit with hearing them, one character presents the manifestos through a speakerphone, and it’s genuinely hard to understand what Blanchett is saying, and it loses impact.
The manifestos themselves were another issue. At the start of the movie, they flash the names of the different creators of the manifestos, and they flash by so quickly that I only caught one or two. So whenever one of the 13 characters was speaking, you don’t know which manifesto it is unless you’ve studied it before. So, in pairing these 13 characters with the different manifestos, but not stating who wrote them or even their purpose made me a little confused. Why was a worker in a rubbish plant’s manifesto about architecture? Why was the widow going on about Dadaism?
If you’re interested in watching this film, I recommend doing a bit of prior research. In writing this review, I pulled up the Wikipedia which has a handy-dandy chart of each character and what manifesto they are presenting and who it is by. I think if I had this resource before I sat down and watched the film and had looked into the different concepts which were being presented, I would have understood a lot more.
The structure of the film was also a little odd. Instead of having each character present their manifesto in full, Rosefeldt sometimes cuts it up. You visit several characters such as the scientist a few times. In this splitting of the manifestos, I feel like it lost the power of the words. One of my notes on the housewife on our third visit to her dinner table reads; “still going on ffs”. In this division of specific manifestos and placing something different in between the halves made me lose whatever line of thought I had managed to grasp onto and understand.
I think that Manifesto is an ok movie. It’s so weighed down in the message that it’s trying to present that it gets lost to the general audience base and you spend an hour and a half of your life slightly confused. Blanchett carries the film and does a fantastic job, but the iffy structure and unclear words make Manifesto a tricky film to enjoy.