"Mephisto," Hungarian director Istvan Szabo's reworking of the Faust tale is an emotionally powerful, if conventional, feature, that made a splash in the international film scene, winning the 1981 Best Foreign Lingo Oscar.
In this modern take the Faust legend featuring, Klaus Maria Brandauer. Gives a bravura performance as acclaimed stage actor Hendrik Hofgen, a leftist who's fed up with delivering entertaining works for the masses, opting for something more political, more revolutionary, more Brechtian.
But there's not positive response and his career doesn't take off. In desperation, motivated to achieve fame at all costs, Hendrik sells his soul to the Nazis, betraying family, friends and colleagues, only to realize later his fatally tragic error.
The movie is based on a novel by Klaus Mann (son of Thomas Mann), inspired by the career of the bi-sexual actor Gustav Grungens, who was married to Klaus's sister and had an affair with the author, among other men.
Though technically accomplished, there is no doubt that the emotional pull of "Mephisto" rests on entirely on the tour de force turn of Brandauer, who after this picture was brought to Hollywood.
Brandauer and director Istvan Szabo teamed again to make two more political films, which form some sort of a trilogy, "Colonel Redl" and "Hanussen," all of which played at the New York Film Festival.
Brandauer received a Supporting Actor nomination for playing Meryl Streep's husband in the 1985 Oscar-winning film, "Out of Africa."
In 1981, "Mephisto" competed against "The Boat Is Full," from Switzerland, "Man of Iron" from Poland, "Muddy River" from Japan, and "Three Brothers" from Italy.