European films

Film review: Manifesto – Cate Blanchett shines in Julian Rosefeldt’s cerebral project

Blanchett performs 13 monologues in different characters in German visual artist’s film looking at the manifestos of various modern art movements

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2017, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 11:50am

4/5 stars

In an era when important discussions take place in 140 characters, Manifesto serves as a reminder that back in the 20th century, it was de rigueur to present a solid argument in a debate.

This film by German visual artist Julian Rosefeldt takes bits of various manifestos from modern art movements – including Futurism, dada, Pop Art, Fluxus, and filmmaker Lars von Trier’s Dogma 95 group – and refashions them into 13 monologues performed by Cate Blanchett in various guises. Although the monologues do occasionally veer towards the pretentious, the film’s intellectual vigour is welcome.

Blanchett made a mark as a chameleon by playing one of the Bob Dylan roles in Todd Haynes’ brilliant I’m Not There. Here, her performances include everything from a homeless person, a choreographer to a TV news anchor and a corporate boss. The scenarios for the monologues are varied enough to keep the film from bogging down, and include a funeral and a waste disposal plant.

Film review: Truth – Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford shine in journalistic drama

Rosefeldt has played with the words in the manifestos by combining the works of numerous different authors. The theoretical ground the monologues cover is vast, but the idea of abandoning or destroying the past to create the future, a decrying of mere style over content, and a passionate denunciation of capitalism and bourgeoisie values crop up as the recurring themes in his reorganisation of the texts.

Manifesto has also been shown as an art gallery installation – and it seems like that was probably the primary reason for its genesis – but it works very well as a film.

Manifesto opens on September 14

Want more articles like this? Follow SCMP Film on Facebook