Mephisto (1981): Szabo’s Hungarian Oscar Winner, Reworking of the Faust Tale, Starring Klaus Maria Brandauer

Mephisto, Hungarian director Istvan Szabo’s reworking of the Faust tale is an emotionally powerful feature, which made a splash in the international film scene, winning the 1981 Best Foreign Lingo Oscar.
Mephisto hungarian poster 1981.png

Hungarian theatrical release poster
Based on the novel of the same title by Klaus Mann, the screenplay was written by Péter Dobai and Szabó,
The film adapts the story of Mephistopheles and Doctor Faustus by revealing the costs to the main character Hendrik Höfgen as he abandons his conscience and continues to perform, ingratiating himself with the Nazi Party in order to retain his job and improve his social position.
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 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 had played at the New York Film Festival.
Brandauer would receive a Supporting Actor nomination for playing Meryl Streep’s husband in the 1985 Oscar-winning film, Out of Africa.
Oscar Alert
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.