7.8/10
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26 user 32 critic

Mephisto (1981)

Unrated | | Drama | 22 March 1982 (USA)
Trailer
1:38 | Trailer
In early-1930s Germany, a passionate stage actor finds himself before a dilemma: renounce his apolitical stance and comply with the Reich's doctrine, or face oblivion. But, Faustian bargains never end well. What is the price of success?

Director:

István Szabó

Writers:

Péter Dobai (screenplay), István Szabó (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 14 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film is included on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list. See more »

Goofs

As Hoefgen crosses a street, a car passes in front of him. The crew is reflected in the car's window. See more »

Quotes

Hendrik Hoefgen: What do they want from me now? After all, I am just an actor.
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Connections

Referenced in The Last Horror Film (1982) See more »

Soundtracks

Fruhlingsstimmen
Written by Johann Strauss (as Johann Strauss)
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User Reviews

The machinery of self
22 July 2012 | by chaos-rampantSee 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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Details

Language:

Hungarian | German | English

Release Date:

22 March 1982 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mephisto See more »

Filming Locations:

Germany See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

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