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Top Customer Reviews
There is a fascinating background to the film, and to the 1936 Klaus Mann novel of the same title. It's often pointed out that the main character Hoefgen is a portrait of the actor Gustav Grundgens, who was married to Klaus Mann's sister Erika in the 1920's. Another literary connection: W. H. Auden later assisted Erika's escape from Germany by means of a marriage of convenience.
In the film, the devilish Hoefgen marries an angelic Erika figure and there is an amusing scene in "heaven" at the Mann family home where he chokes on the food served. Interestingly, one of the more admirable characters is a sometime Nazi whose courage is a foil to Hoefgen's compromises. There are persuasively menacing analogues of Hermann Goering and Josef Goebbels.
Klaus Maria Brandauer does a virtuoso job acting as the actor Hoefgen. Yet another layer of meaning is added to this complex movie by the fact that its director Szabo was from Communist Hungary, where artists faced their own choices about whether and how to collaborate with authority. Check out the scene where Hoefgen interprets Hamlet to journalists as a National Socialist hero.
Klaus Mann fled Germany before WWII and killed himself in France in 1949, while Grundgens had a notably successful career in the Third Reich and afterward. His Dusseldorf theater made a fine recording of Faust 1 for Deutsche Grammophon in the early 1950's. (It's now out on CD from DG Literatur, available from amazon.de.) Grundgens naturally plays Mephisto.
Winner of the '82 Oscar in the category of Best Foreign Film, `Mephisto' provides a fascinating glimpse behind the most notorious regime of the 20th century and the elusive spiritual force that energized its rise to power. Klaus Maria Brandauer is brilliant in the role of Hendrik Hofgen, struggling actor in Berlin circa 1930's whose ability to rationalize and dismiss the growing evil of the Nazi party eventually becomes the embodiment of the dictatorship on stage personified in the figure of Mephisto, "The spirit who negates."
Writer and director Istvan Szabo has successfully created a unique atmosphere in this production. It is a play within a play, an extravagant distraction of clever words, color and costume designed to enthrall the audience within the theater while malignant socio-political forces move into positions of power and influence in the world outside.
The viewer is slowly but surely drawn into the inner world of Hendrik Hofgen. As the film progresses one becomes aware of the myriad of layers to Hendrik's persona and eventually you will begin to peel away the various masks he so ingeniously hides behind. While his onstage performances as Mephisto are dramatic and powerful the essence of the Mephistophelian mythos is lived out off stage away from the bright lights. The manner in which he refuses to acknowledge the devastating and threatening effects of Nazism on Germany, along with the mental machinations employed by the deluded artist to justify his choice to stay in the Motherland are all a reflection of a spirit evil he has so unwittingly embraced.
Great film! Definitely -5 Stars-!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It wason a British formated disk, not compatbile with the American one. No where did it warn of this situation.Published 3 months ago by mike scavo
When I saw this movie in the 1980's I enjoyed it tremendously. The actors spoke English in that version. It was not an overdubbed version, either.Published 6 months ago by Bãobidão
Excellent film. This transfer looks good enough, though it's probably only a bit better than the VHS I have in storage somewhere. Certainly, it's not restored. Read morePublished 16 months ago by The Masque of Mandragora
István Szabó's movie is based on the novel with the same title by Klaus Mann, the son of Thomas Mann. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Luc REYNAERT
Seldom do you see a totally convincing performance like this of Klaus Maria Brandauer. He is a man who gives
up his soul to the Nazis in order to be successful. Read more
Picture quality wasn't great. Not a good transfer. But since, to the best of my knowledge, this film has never had a DVD release in the states, I'm glad to have it. Read morePublished on May 22, 2014 by KMH
I loved this film when it was first released, and have never forgotten it. It has been great to watch it again, some thirty years later, and its message remains powerful and true. Read morePublished on September 14, 2013 by Maritha