Week 9 – Mephisto

The final scene of Mephisto was definitely the scene that left the most profound impression on me.  From the scene’s inception and until Hendrik began walking down the steps towards the open field, I found myself confused; I was taking the scene literally.  Only until the lights began focusing on Hendrik did I realize the metaphorical purpose of the scene.  Having been misleadingly referred to as Mephisto throughout the film, he realizes that he is instead, tragically and irreversibly, Faust.  All of the cinematic and thematic aspects of the film seem to converge and resolve in this scene: the premise, saturated with political elements, the metaphorical undertones, and the psychoanalysis of the characters (namely, of Hendrik himself).

Throughout the film, close-ups were utilized to emphasize the emotions of the characters.  In this particular scene, a close-up of Hendrik was used to convey his ultimate revelation; it finally dawns on him that he is merely a pawn in the grander scheme of things, essentially a piece of propaganda manipulated (almost in a dehumanizing manner) for the sole purpose of disseminating the ideas and principles of the Nazi regime.  At last, he questions, agonizingly, what the Nazis desire from him, coming to terms with the truth at last.

In a sense, at this very moment, a theme of the novel – the portrayal of the stage as Hendrik’s reality – is shattered.  The element of dream-like intangibility in Henrik’s mysteriousness and his ambiguous inner persona is lost as he violently comes to terms with his true role and identity.  Furthermore, the lights that surround Henrik divide his shadow into three separate components; this reminded me strangely and almost disturbingly of the strings of a puppeteer.  From the scene’s inception to its closing, a dark, surreal aura seemed to radiate from not only the strange setting but from the mannerisms of the Nazis surrounding Henrik, proving unsettling for the audience while simultaneously giving the impression of a lurking, impending doom falling upon Henrik.

This final scene also proves heavily ironic.  Henrik’s vision of himself is revealed to be completely false, fanciful, and almost ridiculous.  He is revealed to be not a product of his art and his love of acting, but a product of the state and its collective political goals – completely contrary to what he believed was actually going on.


4 thoughts on “Week 9 – Mephisto

  1. I very much like this scene as well. Very heavily lit and mixed in with shots of the Nazi officers watching Hendrik from above, this scene is Hendrik’s revelation of his actual role in this society. It is a turning point in the film and for him: whereas it was thought (by Hendrick as well as the audience) that Hendrick was actually rising in power, he was actually losing power. I like how you said that the light almost makes him look like a puppet on strings — all his efforts to become more powerful actually ended up making him more of a puppet.
    To me this scene is beautiful and I believe it serves not only as a calling for help from Hendrik to us, but as a moment to sympathize with him, a character who was rather hard to sympathize with up until that point.
    This scene leaves a profound impression, as you said, and it also is one of the film’s most memorable.

  2. The last scene certainly left me with a lot of thought and anxiety. From the moment the Nazis told Hendrik that the General wanted to see him, I thought to myself that they were going to kill him, especially after what happened to Miklas. Although, Henrik did not die, perhaps a part of him actually did. As you formerly alluded to, I interpreted the scene as showing Hendrik losing his true identity. Up to this point, the viewers have come to realize that the Nazis are using Henrik for the great actor that he is as a political pawn. However, it takes three spotlights casted upon him for Henrik to finally be “enlightened” on this fact.

    Consequently, I feel that his three shadows in the scene serve to show this very idea that Hendrik is not who he used to be; he has basically lost all of his beliefs and has conformed into the very man he despised at the beginning of the film. Ultimately, the ending shows the true nature of Mephisto and Faust in that Hendrik now has to live with his newly formed desired life and accept the consequences that come with it.

  3. I feel the film was created to make us feel confused; to make us feel disillusioned, and lost. The use of jump cuts in the beginning of the film not only strengthen the argument that this film was created to make the viewer trapped into the world of “Mephisto” but also crazed into his rise to power. The final scene was absolutely magnificent, and the way that he realized he was trapped in the Nazi regime was beautifully metaphoric. He was blinded by the raw power and threat that the regime presented and also by the pure truth of how he mindlessly wanted apart of it.

    I would have to agree with the last comment from Mr. Garcia, because I honestly did feel that a part of Hendrik died due to the sick fact of realizing that he was a part of a murderous, conniving, organization that had a sole purpose of hatred.

  4. This scene was definitely very eye-opening for me as well. The film was very well brought together by the scene and the metaphorical value of the lights and huge stage. There had been hints at Mephisto actually being the one whose soul was being sold, but it wasn’t completely obvious until this scene. The close up at the end was also very impressive and it made what he was saying very blunt and pretty much obvious what was going on. The concept of this movie is both very tragic and very complicated, but is most interestingly told from Hendrik’s point of view. It is so obvious to us as viewers what that the Nazis are doing, but Hendrik sees everything from such a focus and almost narcissistic way that it almost makes the viewer questioning the reality of it all.
    I definitely didn’t think that reading Faustus in high school would ever be so directly relevant, but it really helped me understand what was going on in the film.

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