In 13 segments and with 13 different protagonists (Cate Blanchett), the film digs into artists’ manifestos, combining and contrasting them to meditate on art, artists and their role in society.
Manifesto is an experimental and highly demanding film. At times I was very lost and would have liked somebody to take my hand and walk me through it. But even when I didn’t understand everything about it and could categorize it perfectly, it affected me.
With Blanchett as the face of the film, Rosenfeldt will probably draw in a lot of people who don’t know what the hell he is doing with the film and who – like me – don’t have the necessary art theory background to get it all, at least not all at once. I know that in those moments where I was familiar with the theoretical concepts, the film was strongest for me: the juxtaposition between the character who expresses the view and the view expressed or the movement drawn on really added another layer to the film. For example, when you have the Conservative Mother proclaim Claes Oldenburg’s pop art manifesto, it can call into question the way pop art is received: maybe less as art that is accessible to everyone and more as a way to keep things as they are and not have people think too much about it. At the same time, though, it shows that there is still a lot of explosive power in the demands of the movement.
Given that this is only one of the 13 segments of the film – and probably the one I understood best – I would have loved the opportunity to get the film basically with footnotes, or with scientific accompaniment. For example, I could see this film used as providing the structure for a lecture series, where each module digs into one of the segments. I know I would be interested to hear that.
But even without the deep dive, there is a force in the film: Blanchett’s electrifying performances, no matter what role she takes on, are a sight to behold. And even without much knowledge about the manifestos, the roles she plays alone are worthy of interpretation: the reporter, the teacher, the mother, the punk, the scientist: aren’t these all roles artists have played throughout history? Or maybe they should have been?
To me, the biggest drawback of this challenging film, though, is that there were only a couple of manifestos from women and POC featured in it. A little more diversity in the choice of material to work with would have been good. Given that a woman playing mostly female characters utters these words, I think that especially feminist manifestos should have been included.
Other than that thouhg, I found Manifesto to be a thought-provoking film that invites the audience to look more closely at art itself.
Summarizing: Interesting experiment.