Humanism and modernity–Julian Rosefeldt’s journey into philosophical rumination
Few filmmakers create their work for the art world. It’s a labyrinthian approach that is a difficult translation. Installation art is frequently absorbed nonlinearly, over several different pieces and with multiple stimuli coming at you all at once. How then, could one translate it to a linear narrative that is told with a beginning, middle and end?
For German artist and filmmaker Julian Rosefeldt, that was part of the fun. It was a refreshing approach that was a large undertaking. Encompassing some of the last two centuries most influential thinkers, Rosefeldt’s “Manifesto” aims to amalgamate thirteen political writings into a series of vignettes that demonstrate their underpinnings. From Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ The Communist Manifesto to Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism, Rosefeldt touches upon many modernist philosophers to expound a deeply humanist foundation. Coupled with the regal Cate Blanchett’s casting, Rosefeldt has worked tirelessly to see his filmic dreams come to fruition.
The Knockturnal had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Rosefeldt about shooting styles, narrative films versus installation based ones, and the generous help of family, friends and most importantly, Cate Blanchett. Check out the interview below:
Most of your movies before 2007 have been shot on 16mm and 35mm. You’ve since transitioned to digital. What made you make that jump?
Technology simply made it to a point where you can pretty much copy the human eye. Working with the depth of field as the eye experiences it was something that digital cameras couldn’t do back then. They show everything in focus all the time and that really irritated me. But now with this fantastic Arri Alexa you can do that. You also have a beautiful really black black and you can play with the depth of field just like you would be able to with analog cameras. That makes a big difference. But I still light my films together with ym director of photography as if it was shot on film.
You made this movie on a miniscule budget of little under half a million euros. How did you manage to unpack such a complex narrative with so little money?
I’m used to working with very tight budgets because I produce my films in the art world. And for the art world that’s a massive budget. So we improvise and we ask lots of friends to help. Cate [Blanchett] was extremely generous by working with free for this film. With a little help from a lot of people, you can manage to do something special.
You’re mainly known for your installation art. Did you come into this project with the same sort of artistic eye you would with your other pieces or did you have a much more moviemaking approach?
The genesis of this project was on the art installation. That was the focus. But I needed to produce a film version of it because in order to finance the installation I had to get people on board and do something linear. I always thought in the back of my head, “how could this ever be collaged in a linear version?” But now I’m surprised that it worked so well. I was scared that it really wouldn’t work because there is no real story in it. So we had to create a visual narrative in it and I guess it’s up to the audience to decide whether that worked or not.
“Manifesto” originally premiered at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image on December 9, 2015. The 90-minute version premiered at Sundance before making its way to Tribeca this year. It is slated to be released on May 10 by FilmRise.