Sundance Review: Julian Rosefeldt's 'Manifesto', Starring Cate Blanchett

It’s hard to like a film when it’s so stuffy and snobbish that the mere dialogue will grate on the nerves. Manifesto is one of these films. It’s art within art, abstract in its nature, and frustrating in its execution. Cate Blanchett plays thirteen different characters, all from different backgrounds, and yet the staunch, almost absurd nature in which the film wishes to get its message across (spoiler: it’s fairly obvious because it keeps repeating itself) is unnerving and just as pretentious as the subject matter it deigns to speak so much about. Blanchett, of course, gives her all to every character so that each individual person she plays feels different, but the experimental film is headache-inducing regardless of Blanchett’s wonderful performances.

 Director and writer Julian Rosefeldt (The Creation) is intent on hitting us over the head with the various monologues from different sources which all eventually bleed into each other. Every single one of Blanchette’s characters is introduced and revisited and, although certain scenes, like the one where she’s monologuing while delivering a eulogy at a funeral, had moments of comedy, they’re all very tiresome and overly redundant. The commentary on twentieth century art and the constant repetition of how art can only flourish when systems are taken down and museums become non-existent is awfully cynical and snobbish.

 Manifesto will really struggle to find an audience because it’s less of a film and more of a one-woman show that is perhaps better suited for the stage. And even then, its presentation is overly long (two hours!), overwhelmingly dull, and honestly really hard to sit through. Blanchett is exemplary in her performances, but that’s hardly a reason to watch such a film that regards itself in the highest esteem and talks down to its audience in its conversation of modern art. In its attempt to make a film discussing art, the film is far too abstract and entitled to entice even the most art-loving person.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5