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 »
Klaus Maria Brandauer,
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In 1957 Gustaf Gründgens staged a new production of Goethe's Faust in which he once again played Mephisto, a part he had played since 1932. The brilliant production was a huge success and ran for a couple of years. In 1959 Peter Gorski captured the performance on film in his directorial film debut. Basically it is a registration of the production, but Gorksi did manage to accentuate the details of the acting by using enough medium and close-up shots which give a view on the acting you normally would not able to see in a theater.
How fortunate it is and how happy we can be that at least this Mephisto of Gründgens is on film (I do not know of any other Faust production with Gründgens on film). Here we can see his brilliant, if not obsessive acting to the full. Here we can also see that, although Gründgens was know for not being in favour of "modernization" of classic plays, he was not entirely against it either. The stage set is simple and almost bare which gives the production a certain light touch. Faust himself is a young man (without long beard!) who is a nuclear physicist (an idea given to Gründgens by Will Quadflieg); a very clear reference to the then nuclear race. According to Heinz Reincke (interview on tv) the exploding of the atom bomb was more sensational on stage than in this film.
So, not only for Gründgens this is a fascinating film, the staging and interpretation of the play as well make it wonderful viewing; for the first time he included the prolog. While watching this production I hardly need to consult Goethe's text; the cast read their lines with a wonderful sense of rhythm and very, very clear; productions nowadays can learn something from this. Not only Gründgens' acting can be admired, under the supervision of Gründgens the complete cast is extraordinary.
Highly recommended and a must-see for all those studying or interested in German language and culture.(8/10)
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