PHILOSOPHY: Crossing the space-time threshold, two actors inhabit the characters of Leon Trotsky and André Breton.
Astra Zoldnere
Zoldnere is a Latvian film director, curator and publicist. She is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: October 28, 2019

Alejandro Rath’s Manifest is an ironic and witty re-enactment of the historic meeting between French writer, poet, and the father of surrealism, André Breton and Russian revolutionary, Bolshevik leader, and Marxist theorist Leon Trotsky. During their intensive collaboration, a new manifesto is born. The text Towards a Free Revolutionary Art (1938) was written fourteen years after Breton’s legendary Manifesto of Surrealism and two years before Trotsky was assassinated by a Spanish communist while in exile in Mexico. The time is shortly before World War II when Stalin was ruling Russia and Hitler in Germany.

Speaking to dead intellectuals

The film is more than a documentary. It is the director’s and actors’ Iván Moschner’s and Pompeyo Audivert’s conversation with dead intellectuals. It’s a love song to both Trotsky’s and Breton’s ideas and, at the same time, an irony about the obsession with Marxist and Freudian concepts.

The film is not black and white, it’s not shot in an old villa, Trotsky’s character doesn’t speak with a Russian accent. On the contrary – Manifest is coloured and staged in a contemporary setting, it is shot in Argentina (not Mexico), and the Russian and French intellectuals speak Spanish. However, the minimalist framing and carefully chosen compositions allow it to be perceived as an abstraction. Everything becomes a stage, an imaginary world, where time and places intertwine and overlap. It is a conversation that could take place in the head of someone busy with the ideas of two geniuses from the bygone century, or in a smoky bar where two people argue using Marxist and Freudian concepts. The moment and interaction are what matter. It is not about Trotsky’s bloody past or Breton’s life in bohemian Paris.

Everything becomes a stage, an imaginary world, where time and places intertwine and overlap

A filmmaker’s wish to interact with admired legendary intellectuals is nothing new. One of the most interesting but relatively unknown examples is Escaping Riga (2014), a docu-drama by Latvian director Dāvis Sīmanis. Although taking a slightly different aesthetic approach, this documentary is also composed of witty and ironic re-enacted scenes. The Latvian film …

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