Sundance Review: Manifesto
Manifesto isn't so much a film as it is a piece of art. And come to find out, that's exactly what it was to begin with. Manifesto wasn't conceived as a feature length film, but rather thirteen separate mini films that artist Julian Rosefeldt created as an art exhibit. The films all featured Cate Blanchett playing different fictional people all reciting various real life manifestos on art that were given throughout history. But it's the settings and situations these people are put in that makes the words they're saying pop and whether the speech fits the situation that it truly makes an impact. Each of these videos were places as separate installations, all unified in theme playing at the same time. Somewhere along the way, someone must have felt that Cate's performance should be seen by a bigger audience and so the footage was re-edited into a feature film.
Knowing Manifesto's history is crucial in being able to appreciate the film on any level besides admiring Cate's versatile performances. It would be easy for most people who saw the film to come away being awed by Cate, but not appreciating the film for its own merits....namely because the film doesn't really act like a normal film. For one thing, there is no storyline in Manifesto, rather we as an audience merely witness several different situations. Also it should be said that while Cate plays every part amazingly, not all of the situations or manifestos recited in the film are created equally. Nor is Cate really playing well-developed characters, but rather character types. Some scenes work better than others, but when Manifesto works it's wonderful.
Manifesto succeeds if you view it more as an art piece than a film. I found much of its experiment to be incredibly fascinating and mostly pretty well done. It was especially interesting to see how these words transformed when recited by these character types and said in their various situations. From drunken rants, to funeral speeches and dinner table prayers, it was truly impressive to see how each manifesto fit. However, if you go into Manifesto expecting to find an incredible narrative where Cate Blanchett morphs into thirteen different characters, you will very much be disappointed. RATING: 8/10 as a film and 8.5/10 as an art piece.