Week 9 Blog Assignment

My favorite scene from Mephisto is the montage of Hendrik’s rise to acting stardom (around 44:20).

The scene begins rather abruptly, like most of the scenes of the film, but the transition between this scene and the one before it is rather clever: the last shot in the preceding scene is graphically related to the first shot in this scene in that Hendrik closes the curtain to close the first scene and comes out of a curtain to open the next. The next several shots are of Hendrik playing a vast assortment of roles in a variety of plays. In each shot he is elaborately costumed and looks like a unique character as he moves across the frame every which way. Lighthearted, fun, nondiegetic music plays in the background, likely representing the happiness Hendrik feels while engulfed in a totally different person that is not his own.

Each shot, although in a theatre setting, is not typically lit theatrically (and this is not the case in many of the other scenes in the film that take place in a theatre) but rather weakly lit, with many shadows and darkness behind Hendrik. He is in the spotlight, but the spotlight is not too bright, contrasting the brightening spotlights in the last scene of the film. This is metaphorically analogous to one of the movie’s themes. At this time of the film (during this montage sequence), he is rising in stardom but is still not yet under the Nazi scrutiny that he is under towards the end—thus the weaker spotlight.

This montage ends with a shot of Hendrik waiting for a bus to pass to then cross the street (and I have no idea how that corresponds to the rest of the sequence) followed by a couple of shots of Hendrik acting in the role of a World War I soldier for a film. This montage, one of the many examples of how the film’s editing condenses time, is a brilliant portrayal of Hendrik’s rise in Germany’s acting scene.

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One thought on “Week 9 Blog Assignment

  1. I analyzed the same scene. One thing that I noticed was that each of his costumes contains a little bit of black. His everyday outfits contains black also, along with the suits and the costume of Mephisto. I don’t think there was an outfit in the whole movie that did not contain a little bit a black. I believe that his kind of signifies that he is dirtied in a way. That there is a part of him that can not be hidden and it shows in his clothing, an element of mise-en-scene. I also believe that he holds a similar smug expression of confidence that emits as this scene allows for time to go by quickly. The camera movements are also quite natural, making it seem as if the camera is a person viewing him on stage. It follows his body movements, and holds still when he does not. This scene is sort of like an onion, I believe with many layers. Much more can be said, but it was good to share a scene this way.

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