Mephisto (1981) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
|This film studies the life of an actor during
the rise of Nazism in Germany, and asks about the social
responsibility of performers. In addition, it attempts to question,
once again, how a handful of thugs could have gained control of a
modern democracy, and to what extent their power was solidified by a
vast quantity of opportunists among the general population who were
simply trapped into an offer they couldn't refuse. In this case,
refusal to co-operate with the Nazis could have caused the actor to be
killed, to work in poverty, or to emigrate to a country where he could
not speak the language (virtual death for an actor). Co-operating
could assure him the highest level of success, complete control of his
productions, and a luxurious lifestyle. Millions of Germans were faced
with this same type of choice, on their own personal scales.
The lead character, Hendrik Höfgen, is said to be the leading actor in all of Germany. He was even an enthusiastic participant in Bolshevik theatrical productions when he was a young regional actor. As the Nazis take over first the government, then the arts, Höfgen gradually allows himself to have no opinions and no personality at all when offstage. His liberal wife leaves the country by her own choice. His German-African mistress leaves the country by the choice of the Nazis. His friends and colleagues disappear mysteriously. They all implore him to emigrate, but he stays on.
His logic is this: I am an actor. This is my life. I only speak German. Without the German language I cannot act.
In effect, he has a choice of being the best actor in the German language, or being someplace where he does not act at all, and/or does not even speak the language. He reasons that every other government has been bad, and the Nazis are no worse. (In reality, economic conditions did start to improve dramatically once the Nazis expelled the Weimar government, and started ignoring the Treaty of Versailles). So Höfgens begins to act in officially approved productions, and then is even nominated by the Nazi cultural minister to be head of the National Theater. His career goes well, but he must have that career at the expense of his friends, his family, and his personal beliefs.
|The Hungarian director was said to be using the Nazi situation as an allegorical way to levy a criticism at his own countrymen who stayed on in the arts in Hungary after Russia crushed the 1956 uprising. Those who left felt that those who stayed were in fact collaborators with an unjust and tyrannical regime bent upon destroying Hungary's cultural identity, thereby facing the same ethical dilemma as the actors who stayed on to perform in Nazi Germany. Perhaps Szabo had that in mind, perhaps not, but the film has been interpreted broadly be many people according to their own personal beliefs. I have also heard people say that it was a metaphor for the 60's generation which abandoned their ideals to get their Porsches and tax shelters in Reagan's America. Whatever. The film is open-ended, asking more questions than it answers, and taking the time to show the pro's and con's of the actor's decision to stay, as well as his regrets about doing so.||
|I have to say that I was very
disappointed in this DVD. It is an excellent film in many ways, but I
don't recommend owning it. In addition to being virtually devoid of
features, it has two major problems.
First of all, the image quality included a lot of interference and pixillation, and was just not very sharp.
Secondly, the DVD played 3/4 of the way through on my DVD-rom drive, then I could not play the last six chapters on either WinDVD or PowerDVD. I was able to finish the film only by popping it into a stand-alone DVD player. I have never encountered this problem before.
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