Movie Analysis : Istvan Szabo 's ' Of The Same Name ' Essay

Movie Analysis : Istvan Szabo 's ' Of The Same Name ' Essay

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Mephisto, István Szabó 's 1981 film adaption of Klaus Mann 's novel of the same name, is the chronicle of the career of Hendrik Höfgen, who, at the beginning of the film, is the star of a provincial theater. Unsatisfied with success on the small stage, the flamboyant man takes a place at the Staatstheater in Berlin, where he attracts the patronage of the National Socialist Ministerpräsident of Prussia. In return for the special treatment in terms of the power and roles he receives in the reformed Nazi theater, Höfgen renounces his own ideology in favor of theirs. Sticking to his pattern of using characters inspired by those from is life (Hoffer 94), Mann wrote the actor 's part with his ex-brother in law, Gustaf Gründgens, in mind. Even so, Hendrik Höfgen 's character is perhaps not only a representation of Gründgens, but of the German Everyman, even the nation itself, as it sold away its humanity to the ideology of the Nazis. This film transforms the supernatural elements of the classical Faust tradition into issues of political environment as inspired by the situation of Germany during the Second World War, evidencing the tendency of citizens of the Third Reich to wager their salvation on politics rather than religion, or even personal conscience. This paper will explore the transitions in Mephisto, beginning with the main character’s conversion from historical person to parable character and our Faust’s profession change from scholar to actor, moving on to the spiritual to political transformations employed in the film, in terms of both characters and specific scenes from the works.
Although it cannot be considered spiritual to political, the main character Hendrik Höfgen did undergo a transformation. The actor’s character beg...


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...ng to erase Jewish influence in the arts (Strobl 179). This included not only the physical removal of undesirables from a profession that housed a larger than average segment of the Jewish population, but also bans from attending art performances and repression or “re-authoring” of successful pieces they had already written (Steinweis 104-125). Simply put, the theater arts were undergoing radical reformation, and anything from a shoddy political past to a single non-Aryan grandparent may have foreshadowed one’s expulsion, not to mention any suspicious current activities. To be a successful theater performer was serving a dutiful function to the present regime and a place well rewarded, but it was a position as tenuous in changing times as scholasticism during society’s move away from the church, making it a very suitable profession for the Faust of the 1930s and ‘40s.

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