Review: Manifesto (2015)

Manifesto (2015)

Directed by: Julian Rosefeldt | 95 minutes | drama | Actors: Cate Blanchett, Erika Bauer, Ruby Bustamante, Carl Dietrich, Marie Borkowski Foedrowitz, Ea-Ja Kim, Marina Michael, Hannelore Ohlendorf, Ottokar Sachse, Ralf Tempel, Jimmy Trash, Andrew Upton

A cinematic manifesto. That’s what you might expect based on the title of ‘Manifesto’. A point-by-point overview of views, which goes beyond an audiovisual essay because it is less contemplative and therefore gives a sense of something definitive. At the same time, a manifesto has less room for visual frills because of that tightly defined frame. Content over style. That is somewhat unfortunate because the strengths of film as an art form cannot be used optimally. At first glance, it is questionable whether film is the right medium for such an enumeration of apparently dry points of view.

Fortunately, as can be heard at the beginning of the film via a voice-over, ‘Manifesto’ wants to keep away from rhetoric. The film does not want to list moral points of view. Filmmaker Julian Rosefeldt is not concerned with order, but rather with chaos. A manifesto of the reversed world. Where the content is not elevated above the style, but rather the other way around. A manifesto, in short, of film.

Rosefeldt does this on the basis of thirteen visually separate, but thematically overarching scenes, all with actress Cate Blanchett in the lead role. Strictly speaking, the scenes each deal with a different art form, based on a variety of statements by well-known thinkers and artists. Together, these stories reveal a red line in which a general vision of art is hidden.

Because, according to ‘Manifesto’, art is the medium of the created truth. It gives a false representation of reality. It has nothing to do with originality, because a construction is by definition no longer original. Because our perception is lacking, there is freedom to create. The freedom of one’s own, factless imagination. Dream versus reality. Emotion versus rationality. Childish sovereignty versus the dull prudence of adults. Film itself is perhaps the best example of this.

At the same time, Manifesto accompanies his plea for art (and the artist) with such irony bordering on cynicism that it also mocks art and the way in which we can be weighty about it. Art is like life itself, Cate Blanchett says almost literally at one point. You shouldn’t think too much about that. Life is also there to experience, to experience.

Then it is somewhat unfortunate that narrator Blanchett retains the upper hand. A position formed purely by the image may be inaccessible, but it opens the way for a more free interpretation. Roseveldt does not grant the viewer the complete freedom that he himself propagates. Manifesto is therefore especially an interesting teaching in postmodernity, in which art is simultaneously meaningful and meaningless. It’s just how you look at it.

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