By Tara Judah

I haven’t felt this way since Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy (2010). And not because both films are interested in the notion of authenticity and art (which they are), but because both films left me feeling as if I’d just had a raging row with a brilliant actress I admire, only I was never given the opportunity to speak back.

Manifesto takes twelve major art movements as its inspiration: Situationism, Futurism, Architecture, Suprematism, Dadaism, Pop Art, Vorticism/Abstract Expressionism, Stridentism/Creationism, Fluxus/Merz, Surrealism/Spatialism, Conceptual Art/Minimalism and Film. It adds a Prologue to the start to make up thirteen distinct film segments; the work was originally created as a multi-channel installation, co-commissioned by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the Sprengel Museum Hanover.

In each segment, Cate Blanchett is re-invented as a human incarnation of each movement’s manifesto. The hair, make-up, wardrobe and mise-en-scene that mark each transition are supreme. But beyond that, and beyond even the careful composition of each striking establishing shot, or the brilliantly rhythmic score, is a belly full of passionate anger. Sometimes it releases itself through a gentle, wry wit but, often enough, it hits the screen like a volcanic eruption of self-righteousness and the plurality of callous authorial voices that exist within the art world.

It is a cesspool of quotable mandates, ranging from the extreme to the hilarious;

“The present crisis has stripped capitalism naked.”

“I am for an art that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.”

It is an exercise in humour and homage but it is also a barrage of text, which, when spoken rather than read, by a versatile but extremely famous and therefore familiar actress, feels a lot like being yelled at by someone you love.

The great success of both Manifesto and Certified Copy, then, is that they have chosen women whose careers have characterised them as strong yet compassionate in our eyes. To fuel them with such vehement dialogue, and to have that address directed towards the viewer – directly – makes the entire encounter feel distinctly personal.

It is not so much that the film is volatile, when viewed as a single screen work, but that it feels as though the breakdown of capitalism is not just happening onscreen, but that it is happening to the viewer. We don’t just see the rubble and garbage that is left behind by a system that fails us, we feel ineffectual in its wake and are unable to speak back against its damning rhetoric. The picture is not just about art but about art as imperative to the survival of man.

In the film art takes on the role of Christ (through prayer) and of home (through architecture), as well as being evidentially directly responsible for the inequity between classes in Britain and America. Each accent Blanchett puts on in her thirteen separate screen roles tells us something about the range of people affected and effected by art as a solution to a failing global economy.

All this may sound as if the film strives, like the manifestos it draws from, to intellectualise the issues at hand. However, on the contrary, the work is entirely concerned with emotional charge. Like Kiarostami, Rosefeldt explores cerebral engagement by going for the gut.

Bright Future
Directed by Julian Rosefeldt
Produced by Julian Rosefeldt
Written by Julian Rosefeldt
Starring Cate Blanchett
Cinematography: Christoph Krauss
Edited by Bobby Good
Production companies: See notes
Australia, Germany, 2015