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.