Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

Hungary 1981
Directed by
István Szabó
144 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars


Although a little work with the scissors would have tightened the dramatic effect István Szabó's film which deservedly won the 1982 Oscar for Best Foreign Film is a compelling tale of the way in which ambition and self-deception readily become complicit. Based on a novel by Klaus Mann, nephew to Thomas, and apparently based on Mann's brother-in-law, Gustaf Gründgens, it tells the story of a young ambitious Hamburg actor, Hendrik Höfgen, played with great conviction by Klaus Maria Brandauer, who rides the Nazi coat-tails to success in the years immediately prior to WWII.

It is a film that interweaves a number of ideas around the theme of the mask, as metaphorically and literally, worn by the social being, the actor and the Nazis as all practice their variously greater and lesser forms of deception, and it does it skilfully, never reducing its analogies to moral illustrations or its characters to stereotypes. In this respect it makes Hofgen a shallow, cowardly man yet also a perfectly understandable one whose moral failure is more a function of weakness than evil intent. The film is superbly staged, capturing the menace behind the Nazi pretence to civilization, frighteningly embodied in the Goering-like General (Rolf Hoppe) to whom Höfgen kow-tows.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst