6th October 2017 6.00pm at BFI Southbank
8th October 2017 8.45pm at Picturehouse Central
If this were a one-word piece, “different” would suffice. Is Manifesto a piece of art, a movement, or a siren to future generations? These are questions that never receive answers, but instead are left to our interpretation. Forming an allegiance with German artist and filmmaker Julien Rosefeldt, Cate Blanchett makes an appearance (13 different appearances to be precise), in a new format that follows no significant plot or storyline but instead serves up a dish of cold, hard political speeches from all corners of modern society.
So 13 different Cate Blanchetts make up the meat in this sandwich. A schoolteacher, news anchor, puppeteer and a stockbroker are just a few of this merry band of Blanchetts, each gifted with a famous manifesto from art history to wrap their tongue around. Each scene has a different scenario to go with the dialogue, inserting a 19th-century dialect into a modern job or household. For obvious reasons there is an intense focus on the actress in each scene and it is down to the her to deliver the prose in an engaging and fitting manner that suits the environment around her.
Does she manage this? Very nearly. There is no doubt that Cate Blanchett is a phenomenal actress, and in Manifesto she lets her creative performing ability entirely off the leash, employing a variety of accents from across the world to authenticate her characters. Although some may have been questionable, Blanchett delivers some real firecrackers in certain scenes, transforming into both a European dance instructor and a homeless man.
The query with this piece is the loss of context to the surroundings and the lack of engagement with it. In no part down to the Australian actress’ delivery of the speeches the meaning behind the words that are recited can lose their way towards their true purpose when thrown into an environment that has other attention-grabbing features in the background. The monologues were intentionally written as speeches, so as entertaining as it may be to see the talented actress multi-role for 95 minutes, there are large amounts of the texts that simply fly in one ear and out the other. The purpose of each scene also takes a significant amount of time to grasp. Of course, as the film progresses, each sequence begins to resonate with the audience on a higher level but, by the time the message becomes powerful enough, several shots have passed and the tiresome line begins to be trodden.
Individually, these monologues are powerful art works with poignant, moving messages. Once compiled together into numerous colourful scenes, the words still get lost, becoming wearying and high brow. Does this make this film pretentious? That is down to the observer.
Manifesto is released nationwide on 24th November 2017.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2017 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Manifesto here: