Film Center from Your Sofa: Mephisto

To be precise, it didn’t need to be a Siskel Center member to watch this movie online. But one of the reasons I love Siskel center is that they make me aware of the great movies I might never hear about otherwise. 

I believe the Mephisto was the first film directed by Istvan Szabo I ever saw, and I can’t even describe how much it impressed me! Often, when you watch the movies made in the 60s-70s-80s, you can’t but notice some “old” ways. Not the case here. The film feels so up to date! 

Winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, Szabó’s most celebrated film features a mesmerizing turn by Klaus Maria Brandauer that Roger Ebert called “one of the greatest movie performances I have ever seen.” Brandauer plays Hendrik Hoefgen, a German provincial actor who starts out in the 1920s with high ambitions and fashionably leftist ideals. His signature role is Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust, but he proves to be more temptee than tempter when the Nazis take over and cultivate him as an all-too-willing tool of the regime. MEPHISTO is more than just a showcase for Brandauer, as Szabó crafts a rich and vivid picture of both the Nazi and theatrical worlds, whose shared reliance on sham and spectacle exposes the slippery slope between artistic self-absorption and moral/political corruption. 

Gene Siskel Film Center

When I was watching the film it felt like I heard it just yesterday: I am not interested in politics! I am an artist (scientist, writer)! I am doing things which are more important to mankind than politics. And I need to be here, to preserve theater, science, art for future generations! And by the way, <put the name of a political figure here> is way better than others! He is smart, and he cares about art-science-theater, you name it…. Great movie…

And yes, I am planning to watch the other two!

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