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.