Mephisto

I chose the opening scene of the movie Mephisto. The setting is a theatre in Hamburg. The opera is characterized by music, lighting, costume, and makeup, and set pieces. The music is diegetic, with words sung by the woman on stage and the instrumentals conducted live in front of the stage. A spotlight provides frontal lighting to the singer, so bright she can be seen from any distance. The costumes are very fancy and a large wig sits on her head. Her makeup is dramatic to play up her features, as stage productions often use. The stage is set up at an angle with stairs providing several levels for actors to stand on to be visible. The stairs provide a sense of perspective, leading to a vanishing point in the back of the stage. The stage has an increasingly larger depth of field as the camera zooms out. The sharp details during this zooming out makes the auditorium seem even bigger, revealing a little more of the audience until the auditorium can almost be seen as a whole. Cuts keep the opera form being too long and drawn out. Long shots are more common on stage, while close ups show the audience’s appreciation by clapping or smiling. Then a high angle shot allows us to see the stage from the balcony’s point of view, putting us in the moment. When the song finishes the whole auditorium roars with applause, which continues into the shot of Kendrik in the dressing room. The applause is dull and quiet compared to the rage of his screams and the sounds of everything in his path crashing to the ground.

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2 thoughts on “Mephisto

  1. The scene you have referred to do really brings something to my attention. This scene is shot in such a way that makes us a part of the audience. Long shots of the stage, especially the view you pointed out from the balcony, give us a distanced perspective. The spotlight seems harsh from our angle, and the lighting seems much more favorable on the close-ups of the audience. There is another scene exactly like it where Hoefgen is dancing on stage. Fast forward a bit to Hoefgen’s first performance as Mephisto and our perspective is completely different. First we have closeups of him, and the spotlight seems much more agreeable. The scene cuts to an angle where the camera is actually onstage. The spotlight makes the actors glow. We almost begin to feel how exciting and glamorous it is to be onstage. It helps us sympathize with how he has been drawn in by the thrill of being in the spotlight.
    The ending of the film brings us back to a very distant view of Hoefgen, paralleling the opening scene. We are reminded of the deceptive nature of being a stage actor by the severe focus of the spotlight. It brings us in a full circle showing how Hoefgen was sorely wrong to pursue this lifestyle.

  2. You have, very thoroughly, gone over the mechanics of the scene, so I won’t discuss that, but rather the scene in relation to the film. The opera we were witness to was an older one, most like written in the Baroque, or even Classical era of music, 1600-1820. A broad range, yes, but nonetheless, one most likely written by a person of Germanic heritage (more on that later). It is, as a play, more over the top in costuming and set than any other play in the film (recall, the set of Faust was a stone slab) and the cut to Hoefgen displays his anger over not performing in the play, for untold reasons. He catches his break later in the film, only after making connections with people, but is, from his point, unfortunately forced to flee Germany. When he returns, he begins working his way up again, making connections, until in one scene at the chancellor’s office, I suppose, he mentions that original play again. He is angry about not having enough German written plays to perform, and upset, mentions the choice of putting on a frivolous play with wigs and dresses (paraphrasing). This small, offhand comment shows how far Hoefgen has really traveled in the movie. He now dismisses a play that was so important to him; but is it he that does not want to perform it, or a facet of his allegiance with the Nazis?

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