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Mephisto

“What vertigo would be mine,” Dali says, could he influence Mao Tse-Tung in the slightest, Dali who accepted a Lenin Prize.

The dilemma in Szabó’s film is of the actor who stayed, qua Schauspieler (and director of the Prussian State Theater). “Ich brauche meine Heimat,” he says, what sadder words?

He is an artist, the Nazis are Nazis, it comes to this.

Staatstheater Berlin, a classical building, a matinee idol from Hamburg, the provinces, two girls express the city new to the Schauspieler, one plays and sings, the other sings the leading part, it is all somewhat more academic and grand, natural, less grubby, thus Szabó’s art.

And that is the game, critics are what they are, too.

 

Oberst Redl

From the very beginning of the film, he deeply reveres the Emperor, that is the key to his character.

He thinks he is serving the Emperor as an army officer, then head of the intelligence service. The heir apparent has a plan to stage a coup, there is neither an Emperor nor an Empire to serve.

This was lost on critics. The twofold irony of John Osborne’s title is further extended.

Redl is set to hunting himself, and the Archduke dies in his own plot.

These are the mysteries of Szabó’s film, in which the machinery of state is bent on its own ruin.

 

 

Being Julia

Szabó’s film encompasses the same sense of dullness and preposterousness to which it is opposed, which makes it a mirror of Mephisto and relegates Variety to the birds.

Harwood takes the screenplay up to Maugham’s room where things are as they appear and cannot be improved beyond the tricks of stagecraft.

The film is an answer to a certain kind of critic who is represented as a ghost in the very first shot adjuring the stage to remember its unreality.

The amazing feat is to turn Schoenberg’s “du Wort, das mir fehlt” into “oh, hell, the word escapes me.”

After which, the tall character has earned her lovely pint.