Week 9 Blog Post-Mephisto

Mephisto

A scene in Szabo’s Mephisto that truly caught my eye was when Heinz and the general meet for the first time. Comfortably sitting in his dressing room, when he hears the news that the general wants to meet him, Heinz instantly feels skittish and fearful. This translates smoothly as he makes his way towards the balcony of the theatre with the film’s use of prolonged close up shots of both the General and Heinz. For Heinz, the close up shots serve to show his fear in the situation of meeting a high ranked Nazi leader. For the General, however, it shows him as almost analyzing him. It is important to remember that while this is all happening, Heinz is still in his full Mephisto costume and makeup.

The scene is quite tense until the General finally says congrats to Heinz. In what can be seen as a quick transition, the tension has passed when the scene fast-forwards a bit later to Mephisto (Heinz), the General and his wife laughing in conversation. The audience is left to fill in the wholes of what happened between the time of tension and later laughter; the director seems to use this through out the whole film in order to condense time.

The most striking part of the whole scene, however, was when the camera panned out and the viewer sees the audience gazing up to the sight of a Nazi leader meeting with what can be interpreted as the devil himself. It is almost as if Heinz’s acting had not stopped and he was performing yet again. The viewer can see this as an almost foreshadowing to the influence that Heinz can have on the people of Germany as a political pawn of the Nazis. It also begs the question of who is more evil: the devil or the Nazis? In any case, it is a truly powerful shot to see the audience of the theatre mesmerized by this sight as if they are almost worshiping both men. Ultimately, Mephisto proves to be a telling story of what man is willing to do in order to gain his greatest desires.

 

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3 thoughts on “Week 9 Blog Post-Mephisto

  1. This particular scene also stood out to me, because of the way the audience reacted to the chancellor and Heinz meeting for the first time. It shows how much the people of Germany were influenced by the Nazi regime, in that they were so consumed by what the chancellor was doing that they all stood up and looked at him. I also thought it was interested how they fast-forwarded their conversation so that you only saw them introducing themselves and then laughing at the end of the scene. This leaves the audience wondering what was said in what seemed like very little time, but in truth we don’t know because time is so distorted in this film. It was hard to have a perception of time in this film because the cuts were very abrupt. In one scene he was happily married, and the next his wife is nowhere to be seen and not really mentioned again, and later he is married again.

  2. I think that the first thing you noted in your post is something really central to the film as a whole. In Hendrik’s mind, his acting and his roles are his power, and Mephisto is probably his greatest source of this power. It takes over who he is, to the point where many people stop addressing him as Hendrik and instead call him Mephisto. But, as is represented by his fear and anxiety about meeting the General, even as Mephisto he cannot match the Nazi’s power and he cowers beneath them. This shows the audience that Hendrik’s power is entirely an illusion long before he even realizes it himself at the end of the film.
    As for the audience shot in the theater, I agree with your interpretation that it shows how fixated the German people were on the Nazis. I also think that this shot complements and creates a sense of unity with several other audience shots throughout the movie during other scenes in the theater. It lets us know, once again long before the “big reveal” at the end, that the people, much more than Hendrik, are the key to the whole Nazi operation: Hendrik’s purpose was to push the German people to sympathize with the Nazis.

  3. This scene also stood out to me. There’s no doubt that the director intended to make the meeting between the general and Hendrik very pronounced and theatrical, as it proved a major turning point in the plot line of the film.
    The stare of the general when they first meet is made to appear very intimidating, almost calculating, with the use of zooming in and camera angles. From this point onward, it is immediately recognizable that the general is to assert a role of great power and influence throughout the rest of the film, although at this point we know not through what means or in what way it may be.
    Also, the silencing of the audience and the use of the stage lights to highlight the interaction between the general and Hendrik seems to prove significant in more ways than one; I agree that it asserts the power the Nazi regime exerts upon the people of Germany, but at the same time, I believe it to represent the dangerous permanence of Hendrik’s facade as Mephisto. From this point onward, the character of Mephisto is almost stamped on him, only emphasized as the lights and audience’s silence convey Hendrik’s carrying of the stage with him; the stage is his reality. But at the same time, it also foreshadows how that reality is to be shattered under the grasp of the Nazi general.

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