Saturday, July 02, 2005


1981 Oscar Winner Best Foregin Language Film

Dir: Istvan Szabo (Being Julia)

You all are joining me half way through watching the foregin film Oscar winners, so bear with me.

Hungarian film about a German actor whose ambition moves him from devotee of Worker's Theater to staging propaganda plays for the Third Reich. Yet another entry in Oscar's love affair with European films exploring their own complicity with the Nazis. And one of the best.

Mephisto refers to Goethe's Mephistophiles, the best role of the thespian in question. If I were more up on my Faust I could unpack the specifics of the sell your soul allegory going on, but the depth of the movie's philsopophical points require more careful study than an inital viewing. Indeed, much of the film's strength lies in several very interesting scenes exploring the connection between art and politics and the individual reasons why otherwise regular people would become connected with a murderous totalitarian state.

Klaus Brandaur's acting is superb. His character is very complicated, using the Nazi's for career advancement while at the same time supportive of the German left, in a interracial relationship, and a firm believer in art as universal embodiement of the human spritit. To see him balance those beliefs against the Nazi edicts of racial and cultural purity in the name of national unity is very intersting. In particular, the movie's juxtaposition of communist theater with Nazi theater (they both seek to motivate the audience to political action) warrants further reflection.

Thought provoking, in particular for those interested in aesthetics.