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Mephisto (1981)

Unrated  |   |  Drama  |  22 March 1982 (USA)
7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 6,441 users  
Reviews: 21 user | 24 critic

A German stage actor finds unexpected success and mixed blessings in the popularity of his performance in a Faustian play as the Nazis take power in pre-WWII Germany. As his associates and ... See full summary »

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Won 1 Oscar. Another 12 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Barbara Bruckner
Ildikó Bánsági ...
Nicoletta von Niebuhr
Rolf Hoppe ...
Tábornagy
...
Hans Miklas
Péter Andorai ...
Otto Ulrichs
Karin Boyd ...
Juliette Martens
Christine Harbort ...
Lotte Lindenthal
Tamás Major ...
Oskar Kroge, színigazgató
Ildikó Kishonti ...
Dora Martin, primadonna
Mária Bisztrai ...
Motzné, tragika
Sándor Lukács ...
Rolf Bonetti, bonviván
Ágnes Bánfalvy ...
Angelika Siebert, naiva (as Bánfalvi Ágnes)
Judit Hernádi ...
Rachel Mohrenwitz, drámai szende
Vilmos Kun ...
Ügyelõ
Edit

Storyline

A German stage actor finds unexpected success and mixed blessings in the popularity of his performance in a Faustian play as the Nazis take power in pre-WWII Germany. As his associates and friends flee or are ground under by the Nazi terror, the popularity of his character supercedes his own existence until he finds that his best performance is keeping up appearances for his Nazi patrons. Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

nazi | faustian | success | power | actor | See All (48) »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Language:

| |

Release Date:

22 March 1982 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Mefisto  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Gross:

SEK 1,925,462 (Sweden)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Hungary's official submission to the 1982's Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category. See more »

Goofs

In the movie's final scene, the modern track is visible in Berlin's Olympic Stadium. See more »

Quotes

Hendrik Hoefgen: Am I not the most dreadful villain you have seen?
See more »

Connections

Featured in Zomergasten: Episode #5.1 (1992) See more »

Soundtracks

Es wird gehn
Music by Béla Reinitz (as Reinitz)
Lyrics by Klabund
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The machinery of self
22 July 2012 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

This is not as deeply felt as Tarkovsky, nor as ambiguously sketched as Resnais. It works from a 'real world', a historic one at that. But it's a good film because it's committed to clearly spin and align the different layers of self.

The story is Faust, both the film and the play-within. Our film is about an actor who sells his soul for a gilded life on the stage, the play is where he is Mephisto - not Faust - and tries to reason with his decision to be Faust, and a third layer is about an era, Nazi Germany in the early years that was also about a Faustian bargain and staged images of power. The protagonist is an actor from the German stage and plays one. It has a Hungarian filmmaker at the helm who knows probably too well the type of life from the Eastern Bloc.

So this succeeds where Hollywood's Cabaret felt contrived and false, because everyone is a step closer to the nervous soul of that world.

Something is quite brilliantly handled here, and I believe it's this; one of the conceits of our actor, a leftist in the early days, is for a Peoples Theater that directly involves and agitates into action. Of course that's all gone when the Nazis come into power, with their Wagnerian notions on the ideal and the pure. He has to do Hamlet, the ambition however is still the same, a play that involves the audience, but in this environment seems ludicrous and hypocritical. It's a state-sponsored event after all.

Now we see several excerpts of Faust, and more shots of our man backstage in pale Mephisto make-up acting the role in real life, but we never see Hamlet. We never see just how he intended this Peoples Theater. We skip to the curtain call and rapturous audience applause.

But of course, the main thrust of the film is that of a man, and later society, that simply doesn't know where the stage ends and life begins. His way of involving the people, in a broad sense, is acting out in this world that is all about posturing and pretending, but doing so in a way that actually saves lives.

The man can thrive in this world, because the world has shifted to align with what he was all along. He doesn't become true, the world becomes as false as he is. It's the stage and lights that shift, so when the narrative planes align for us, we understand that all along he was a decent human being. The chilling finale has him on that stage that is the yawning void where the machinery of self is decided.

Just who controls the lights that he acts to?


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