Mephisto (1981)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Political Drama, Showbiz Drama  |   Run Time - 146 min.  |   Countries - Austria , Germany , Hungary   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Tom Wiener

In films about wartime collaboration, Mephisto earns a special niche, because it also manages to include so many acute observations about the world of the theater, and, in particular, the delusions under which some artists operate. Hendrik Hofgen is an actor of some talent and even greater ambition. That ambition, to work on the best stages in Berlin after an apprenticeship in regional theater, also serves to blind him to the rise of Nazism and what it means to freedom-loving artists such as himself. Dismissing the Nazis as mere thugs, Hofgen believes that his status as a stage performer exempts him from dealing with them. If his wife's leaving Germany for France, where she works to undermine Hitler's regime, isn't enough of a signal, then the treatment accorded to his black mistress by the Nazis should be. Hofgen keeps living in denial until it is too late to back off from a cozy relationship with the regime. Klaus-Maria Brandauer's performance is flamboyant in all the best ways, and István Szabó's direction guides us without a misstep into Hofgen's dilemma.