Mephisto - In the presence of István Szabó

Date: 11 May
Time: 19:00
Venue:  Cinematek
Baron Horta 9. 1000 Bruxelles


István Szabó, HU, DRDE, AU, 1981, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Krystyna Janda, Rolf Hoppe
137' ⁄ Ov St: FR - NL

An ambitious and gifted actor, a driven and unscrupulous politician, a formidable ideological distortion mechanism. With ‘Mephisto’, István Szabó said something fundamental about power, politics and art in central Europe. The film won the 1981 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, the Best Screenplay Award in Cannes and the FIPRESCI Prize, among many others.

What is it about?

Hendrik Höfgen (Klaus Maria Brandauer) is an aspiring actor in Hamburg. He has no ambition but to make it. When he plays Mephisto in Faust, he becomes the country's most popular actor. And he will remain so after the Nazi Party takes power. His friends and his wife flee, but he makes his own little compromises with power so he doesn't have to give up success.

What makes it special?

In Mephisto, István Szabó explores the relationship of art to power in a gripping but complex drama. Höfgen is not evil, just a weak character willing to sacrifice anything for success, for the spotlight. First he betrays his principles and abandons his left-wing ideals, then his family, who flee abroad, and then his black mistress. Szabó masterfully reveals the self-deception of those who serve dictatorships, who reassure themselves that art is above politics and that as actors (butchers, shoemakers, and so on) they can do nothing against the system anyway, so they prefer to enjoy its fruits.

Mephisto marked a turning point in Szabó's career, who after Trust, had turned to a more conservative cinematic language. But that didn't make his films any less personal: the agent-turned-filmmaker was intimately affected by the dilemmas of the actor serving the power. Mephisto's overwhelming success was also due to his complex grasp of moral self-abandonment, and due to Klaus Maria Brandauer's brilliant performance as the faceless actor always hiding behind the mask of a character.

The screenings will take place at CINEMATEK.
Address: Baron Horta 9. 1000 Bruxelles

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