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Mephisto

(István Szabó, Hungary, 1981)


 


István Szabó's strong but overrated (and overstated) film revisits a character type beloved of much European cinema of the 1970s – the spineless, soulless, quietly hysterical individual who embodies what Wilhelm Reich called the 'mass psychology of fascism'.

Hofgen (Klaus Maria Brandauer) is an actor who, during the Nazi rise to power, swings wildly from radical Brechtian theatre to frivolous bourgeois entertainment, from left to right-wing ideologies.

Szabó films Hofgen in harshly over-lit, distorted, off-centre close-ups, and presents the social milieu as the character experiences it – in a frenzied whirl of dissociation.

The film set off an arthouse buzz in its day, but has not stood the test of time well.

MORE Szabó: Sunshine

© Adrian Martin January 1993


Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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