“The point of difference, the empathetic connection to somebody else’s circumstances that are outside my own experience, that’s what drives me.” – Cate Blanchette
Essentially a collection of monologues put together from manifestos of various art movements, Manifesto is anything but a typical film, and as such I hesitated even attempting to review it… but here goes. Equally a collection of points of view on art and life, and a set of virtuosic performances from the powerhouse Cate Blanchette, the film weaves together countless manifestos from the past 200 years into an experience unlike any other. Beauty exudes from this film in countless ways – while primarily from the beautiful poetry of countless artists’ pens and Blanchette’s awe-inspiring embodiment thereof, these two pillars are complemented by stunning and often striking visuals, arousing music, and fascinating juxtapositions of themes and ideas.
I do not claim to have grasped even a fraction of the intent, meaning, and meticulous thoughtfulness that went into the making of this project. Spanning twelve art movements, of which some I have zero knowledge (e.g. Stridentism, Dadaism), to fully understand the varied perspectives presented throughout the film would require an encyclopedic knowledge of art history. However, the beauty of the film is that a complete understanding of the artists or the perspectives outlined in their manifestos is simply not required. Blanchette’s complete immersion in each of her twelve characters draws you in and keeps you on the edge of your seat, and permits you to simply let the poetry wash over you, whether or not you grasp its true meaning.
I found myself deeply connecting with some vignettes, laughing at others, and scratching my head more than once. But I feel this work simply begs you to immerse yourself without judgement into these varied worlds. I view this movie as an exercise in perspective – you are forced to simultaneously hear the deeply heartfelt words of these artists and try to comprehend them, while also putting yourselves in the shoes of the character who is presenting those words. The subtle genius of the work is that no judgement is passed on any idea or worldview, but is simply presented as a concept to be mulled over, sat in, and experienced, if only for a brief moment.
While I recognize that not all will appreciate this unique, cerebral, non-literal exercise in filmmaking, I would recommend it to anyone regardless. The thing I love about film is its power to shed light on varied ideas, and its ability to force perspective, and Manifesto does just that. One review I feel perfectly captured the non-traditional gestalt of the work, far better than I could ever hope to do: “Really, it’s best to understand ‘Manifesto’ as an art film that’s not so much about art as it is about about art. Repeat that sentence in your head a few times, let the words blur until they lose meaning, and you’re basically watching the film already.” (http://tinyurl.com/y8uvobk3)