Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan


(Hungary, West Germany, Austria, 1981)

Klaus Maria Brandauer delivers an acting tour de force in this movie which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. He portrays an actor, Hendrik Höfgen, who is just bursting with energy, and wants to move up in the world but is stuck in regional theater. He moves to Berlin from the provinces and soon begins to be noticed. The role he is most famous for is Mephistopheles from the legend of Faust. As you may recall, Faust was a loser who sold his soul to the Devil, Mephisto, in order to be granted unlimited knowledge. But of course eventually the bill had to be paid.

Hendrik’s rise coincides with the rise of the fucking Nazi Party. He was formerly quite a leftist radical, but is able to renounce all his socialist principles to ingratiate himself with a general (modeled on Hermann Göring), and soon is appointed head of the national theater. But it doesn’t come without compromise. While all his friends had fled to France or Switzerland, he continues to delude himself that it will all be worthwhile in the end. He thinks he is Mephisto, but he finds out too late that he has sold his soul to the fucking Nazis. He is Faust. It is the general who is the Devil. This film is beautiful to watch, with lush settings and great editing and montages of Hendrik’s rise to fame and fortune. And Brandauer is simply fantastic. In my opinion he should have been nominated for Best Actor.