Istvan Szabo

Istvan Szabo

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Istvan Szabo was born in Hungary in 1893. He became involved in politics and joined the Smallholders Party. It drew most of its support from the peasants who formed more than 50 per cent of the country. However, until 1939, the ballot had been open in rural constituencies, and therefore large landowners were able to force most peasants to vote for the government party. The leaders of the Smallholders Party were mainly members of the middle class and their political views varied from liberals to socialists.

The Hungarian Uprising began on 23rd October by a peaceful manifestation of students in Budapest. The students demanded an end to Soviet occupation and the implementation of "true socialism". The following day commissioned officers and soldiers joined the students on the streets of Budapest. Stalin's statue was brought down and the protesters chanted "Russians go home", "Away with Gero" and "Long Live Nagy".

On 25th October Soviet tanks opened fire on protesters in Parliament Square. One journalist at the scene saw 12 dead bodies and estimated that 170 had been wounded. Shocked by these events the Central Committee of the Communist Party forced Erno Gero to resign from office and replaced him with Janos Kadar.

Imre Nagy now went on Radio Kossuth and promised the "the far-reaching democratization of Hungarian public life, the realisation of a Hungarian road to socialism in accord with our own national characteristics, and the realisation of our lofty national aim: the radical improvement of the workers' living conditions."

On 3rd November, Nagy announced details of his coalition government. It included Szabo, Janos Kadar, George Lukacs, Anna Kethly, Zolton Tildy, Bela Kovacs, Geza Lodonczy, Gyula Keleman, Joseph Fischer, Istvan Bibo and Ferenc Farkas. On 4th November 1956 Nikita Khrushchev sent the Red Army into Hungary and Nagy's government was overthrown. Szabo was arrested and remained in prison until 1959.

Istvan Szabo died in 1976.


One of the most prominent directors to emerge from the Hungarian New Cinema of the '60s, István Szabó has earned acclaim for films whose emotion, tenderness, and rage evoke stirring portraits of contemporary Hungarian history, particularly the effects of World War II on Hungarian society.

Born February 18, 1938, in Budapest, Szabó studied film at the city's prestigious Academy of Film Art. The acclaim he earned for a film he made while a student, Koncert (1961), won Szabó a place at the Béla Bálazs film studio, where he netted further acclaim for two shorts he made in 1963, Variáciòk egy témára and Te. Szabó then moved on to his first feature-length venture, Almodozasok Kora (1964). The warmth and lyricism of the drama, which focused on the hopes and dreams of four recently graduated engineers, was particularly evident in Szabó's next effort, Apa (1967). The story of a young man struggling with the heroic imagery that he has built around his father, who was killed in World War II, it received wide critical acclaim. Along with its predecessor, Apa put Szabó at the forefront of a new generation of Hungarian filmmakers.

Szabó inaugurated the '70s with Szerelmesfilm, a love story that, along with the director's previous two films, comprised the last installment of a semi-autobiographical trilogy. He subsequently returned to an exploration of immediate post-war society with Budapesti Masek (1976), which focused on a group of displaced persons who take up residence in an abandoned streetcar while journeying to Budapest. It was Bizalom (1979), an improbable love story also set in the wartime milieu, that put Szabó on the international map, netting him a Silver Berlin Bear for direction and a Special Jury Prize for Best Film at the Berlin Film Festival.

The acclaim Szabó earned for Bizalom was amplified with his next feature, Mephisto (1981). The story of an ambitious actor who becomes caught up in a moral dilemma when he is befriended by a high-ranking Nazi official, it won a number of honors at Cannes and a Best Foreign Film Oscar. A complex exploration of the relationship between art and politics, it established Szabó as one of the most important directors of his era. He followed the film up with another celebrated work, Oberst Redl (1984). The story of the rise and fall of a colonel who faces blackmail because of his homosexuality, Redl received a Best Foreign Film BAFTA and an Oscar nomination in the same category.

Another Oscar nomination followed for Szabó's Hanussen (1988), a political drama set against the backdrop of the two world wars. Starring Klaus Maria Brandauer as an Austrian soldier who becomes clairvoyant after being shot in the head during World War I, the film marked Szabó's third collaboration with the actor, who had also starred in Mephisto and Oberst Redl.

Szabó's fairly sporadic work throughout the '90s was marked by two English language features, the first being Meeting Venus (1991). A romance set against a turbulent production of the opera Tannhaeuser, it starred Glenn Close as a celebrated Swedish opera singer. In 1999, Szabó helmed another English language film, Sunshine. An epic historical drama tracing the shifting fortunes of a family of Hungarian Jews over the course of almost 150 years, it featured Ralph Fiennes in three different roles and a strong supporting cast that included Rosemary Harris, James Frain, Miriam Margolyes, and William Hurt.

What Szabo family records will you find?

There are 15,000 census records available for the last name Szabo. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Szabo census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

There are 24,000 immigration records available for the last name Szabo. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the USA, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

There are 6,000 military records available for the last name Szabo. For the veterans among your Szabo ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.

There are 15,000 census records available for the last name Szabo. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Szabo census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

There are 24,000 immigration records available for the last name Szabo. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the USA, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

There are 6,000 military records available for the last name Szabo. For the veterans among your Szabo ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.


In the strange manner of life, this is the the story of two actors whose lives are intertwined, though they never met -intertwined in the creation of a movie that opens today at Cinema I, trailing such laurels as an Academy Award nomination for best foreign film and the award for best screenplay at last year's film festival in Cannes.

The movie is ''Mephisto,'' an opulent-looking Hungarian-German coproduction that traces the ascent into hell of a brilliant German actor named Hendrik Hofgen, who sells his soul to the Nazis.

The two real-life actors who figure in the film are Klaus Maria Brandauer, a prominent Austrian-born performer in European theater and television who portrays Hofgen on the screen, and the masterly German actor Gustav Grundgens, the man whose life inspired ''Mephisto.''

The film ''Mephisto'' is based on a controversial novel by Klaus Mann, the son of Thomas Mann - a novel banned in both prewar and postwar Germany.

The lives of Grundgens and Mr. Brandauer become linked on the very same day in 1963 when the young Austrian actor faced the opening night of his debut on the German stage and the old German actor died in a hotel room on the other side of the world in Manila. Mr. Brandauer read the obituary of Grundgens and the very next day purchased a copy of ''Mephisto'' -and the memory of it never left him.

Nearly 20 years passed, and in the spring of 1980, at the Burgtheater in Vienna, where he was playing Moliere's Tartuffe, Klaus Maria Brandauer took a telephone call from Berlin. The voice on the other end belonged to the Hungarian director Istvan Szabo. ''I want to make a film from the book by Klaus Mann - 'Mephisto,' '' Mr. Brandauer remembers him saying. 'ɺnd I said, 'Stop, Mr. Szabo. I want to state that I have known the book for years, and I'm your man.''

The result of their collaboration is now on the screen. For an actor, the principal role in ''Mephisto'' is a dream - the portrait of an artist in moral decay, the opportunity to sweep through a panorama of roles, to sing, to dance, to rage, to rut, to swagger before underlings and cower in the presence of overhwelming power, to depict public confidence and private agony.

On its surface, the film depicts the career of Hofgen, an extraordinary German actor played by Mr. Brandauer, who starts out in Hamburg in the days of democracy as a local luminary with communistic ideas about a people's theater and ends as a great star in Berlin, the director of a state theater and the cringing tool of Nazi protectors in their corruption of the arts.

But Mr. Brandauer cautions against the easy interpretation of ''Mephisto'' and facile condemnations of Hofgen. ''It is not a report of the days at that time in Germany,'' he said. ''This is a film for us today, in all countries, because the question is: Is a man able to live in the world without making compromises?''

With regard to artists in particular, Mr. Brandauer observed. ''Unfortunately we are unable to work without money. We need people with money, and in the Western democratic countries, mainly it is the government that gives us the money, and sometimes, perhaps, private sources.

'ɻut, unfortunately, the government and the private people - with words or only with the eyes - sometimes say, 'Make it our way and you will get the money.' And so we are always at war with our conscience.''

Not only is Mr. Brandauer an illuminator of the wider implications of ''Mephisto,'' he is also at least a partial guide through the thickets of history behind the novel behind the film.

Gustav Grundgens, it seems, was the son-in-law of the Nobel-prizewinning author Thomas Mann. In the 1920's, Grundgens was not only the husband of Erika Mann, but also the colleague and dear friend of her brother, Klaus. When the Nazis rose to power in Germany, the Manns went into exile, while Grundgens, who was eventually to be divorced, remained behind, achieving great eminence under the Nazis.

Already acclaimed for his depiction of Mephistopheles in Goethe's '⟺ust,'' known to an international film audience as the king of criminals in the classic Fritz Lang film ''M,'' Grundgens was named in 1937 as director of all public theaters in Berlin, including the operas.

In 1936, the Nazi Government awarded him the title ''Prussian Councilor of State,'' the highest distinction ever conferred upon an actor. That was the very year that Klaus Mann, the son of Thomas Mann, used Grundgens as the model for a character he called Hofgen in his novel ''Mephisto.'' Mr. Brandauer thinks Klaus Mann's book constituted an attack reflecting not only by his detestation of Grundgens's willingness to cooperate with the Nazis but also the venegeance of 'ɺ jilted lover.''

Klaus Mann died a suicide in 1949. Grundgens's eminent career continued into the post-World War II years despite his Nazi associations and his vilification in the Mann novel.

There were those who said that he had used his position to help people escape Nazi repression. But there were others who said that his was a uneasy conscience.

On Monday, Oct. 7, 1963, Gustav Grundgens was found dead in a hotel suite in Manila while traveling. In his quarters were found a broken bottle of pills and a note in German: ''I believe that I took too many sleeping pills. I feel a little funny or strange. Let me sleep long.''

Across the world, in a little theater in Tubingen, the 19-year-old Austrian-born actor Klaus Maria Brandauer was making his debut on the German stage as Claudio in Shakespeare's ''Measure for Measure.''

'ɺnd the next day,'' he said of the novel ''Mephisto,'' ''I bought the book.'' Mr. Brandauer, who was born June 22, 1944 in the Alpine village of Altausee, some 70 kilometers to the southeast of Salzburg, cannot remember a time when he entertained the thought of any other career but the stage.

He still remembers vividly attending a performance of ''Tosca'' during a summer vacation in Verona and hearing Franco Corelli sing in a theater where the audience lit candles before the overture and young boys hawked gelati in the aisles. 'ɿor me,'' he said, ''it was a whole fantastic social, cultural thing. It was seminal. I said to my father, 'I want to make something like that.' ''

Not only was there encouragement in the form of such trips to the opera with his father, Georg, a Government employee when he was 12, his mother, the former Maria Steng, a housewife, made him a gift of a subscription that enabled him to spend three or four evenings a week at the theater.

At 17, after a secondary school education in Germany, he was enrolled for the study of theater at a university in Stuttgart, where he remembers feeling bored. ''I am sure an actor can learn a lot,'' he said, 'ɻut the most important thing is to act.'' As he recalls it, he was in his second semester when a director came to the university while he was feeding lines to a student rehearsing Shakespeare's ''Richard III.''

The director listened and invited Mr. Brandauer to turn professional. ''The career was very, very quick,'' he said. '➯ter 10 years, I awoke once and said, 'I am a famous actor.' ''

Mr. Brandauer, who speaks of himself as ''wedded to the stage,'' has performed on stage and on television in classical and modern roles and is also a director.

''My base is in the little village,'' he said, speaking of Altausee, where he and his wife, the former Karin Muller, a television director, grew up. The Brandauers have a son, Christian, 19. ''I spend half a year in Vienna, and the other half I am in Munich, Hamburg, Zurich - either on stage or in television studios.''

His movie debut, the 1972 Hollywood film, ''The Salzburg Connection,'' with Barry Newman and Anna Karina, was a flop. '➯ter that,'' he said, ''I had propositions sometimes from Luchino Visconti, but I thought it better to make a serious career of theater at first, and maybe then films once more.''

And so he remained wedded to the stage until the day when Istvan Szabo telephoned him to speak of ''Mephisto,'' the novel that had been banned in Germany in the postwar years by court order issued in 1971 as the result of a lawsuit brought by an adopted son of Grundgens. Nevertheless, Mr. Brandauer said, the book has always been readily available in Germany, and now, as a result of the movie, sales are booming.

Shooting on ''Mephisto'' began in July 1980 in Budapest and, after location work in East and West Berlin, in Hamburg and in Paris, was finished by November.

Mr. Brandauer said that he and Mr. Szabo, who co-wrote the screenplay with Peter Dobai in addition to directing the film, agreed on a significant departure from the Klaus Mann novel.

''Unfortunately,'' said Mr. Brandauer, ''the book is a portrait in black and white. I hate things black and white. Life is colored. We had to be complicated because the lives of people are so complicated.

Mr. Brandauer said that when he first read ''Mephisto,'' ''I remarked immediately that it is the report of a jilted lover, because Klaus Mann and Grundgens were such good friends.'' But, he said, there was no depiction of a homosexual relationship in the film because Mr. Szabo and he took the position that it was necessary for as many members of the audience as possible to see themselves in Hofgen.

''Man is an error of nature. First we have the head, so we can be logical. But that is not enough. We have the heart and we have the glands and thus we have three places in our body that are not always in harmony. So we have to make mistakes. That is our damnation.''

''I never saw him on the stage,'' Mr. Brandauer said of Grundgens. ''I saw only his films, but I read his books. For me, he was the most important figure of the German language theater in the whole century. He was not only an actor but a director and the president of a big theater. His life was theater. Only theater.

''The stage was for him the world in which he was able to live. I speak now not for Mr. Hofgen but for Mr. Grundgens. He saved Polish people, Jewish people from his theater during the war, and after the war the Communist actor Ernst Bush from East Berlin said to the military goverment: Mr. Grundgens was a very honorable man during the war. And for that reason Grundgens became free.''

Mr. Brandauer said, ''To act the part of Hofgen was like therapy for me, because Mr. Hofgen is an actor and I, too so he is a brother to me. We all have vanities. We want to have the love of the audience. We want to have success, and sometimes we make great compromises to the public to win success.''

Mr. Brandauer is often asked how he might have behaved had he found himself in the place of the real Grundgens or the fictional Hofgen. ''That is a question I cannot answer,'' he said, '�use I have knowledge of the past 50 years and know very well what happened. So I can only decide from the point of view of today.

''Sometimes I am sure I would say at that time, 'I do not want to run your theater, Mr. General.' But I'm not sure. And I am sure that if a man is honest in our world today, he cannot really decide what he would have done then.''

Films as Director:

Koncert (Concert) (short) (+ sc): Variációk egy témára (Variations on a Theme) (short) (+ sc)

Te (You . . . ) (short) (+ sc)

Álmodozások kora (The Age of Daydreaming) (+ sc)

Apa (Father) (+ sc)

Kegyelet (Piety) (short) (+ sc)

Szerelmesfilm (Love Film) (+ sc)

Budapest, amiért szeretem (Budapest, Why I Love It) (series of shorts: Alom a házröl [Dream about a House], Duna—halak—madarak [The Danube—Fishes—Birds], Egy tukor [A Mirror], Léanyportre [A Portrait of a Girl], Tér [ASquare], Hajnal [Dawn], Alkony [Twilight]) (+ sc)

Tüzoltó utca 25 (25 Fireman's Street) (+ sc)

Ösbemutató (Premiere) (+ sc)

Budapesti mesék (Budapest Tales) (+ sc)

Várostérkép (City Map) (short) (+ sc)

Bizalom (Confidence) (+ sc) Der grüne Vogel (The GreenBird) (+ sc)

Redl Ezredes (Colonel Redl)

Sweet Emma, Dear Bobe (+ sc)


István Szabó was the first director to bring home to Hungary the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The movie receiving the award was his 1981 film Mephisto. In January 2006, it became public that he had been an agent of the III/III department, a former communist agency of interior intelligence. After the revolution in 1956, he was blackmailed and forced to cooperate, though later he was considered willingly cooperative. Allegedly, he wrote reports about fellow Hungarian directors, actors, and actresses such as Miklós Jancsó, Mari Töröcsik, Károly Mécs. A well-known Hungarian journalist Zsolt Bayer has said the following about it: “This is the time to re-watch Mephisto. It has just become obvious that Szabó directed his own life in the movie, masterfully.” Szabó has never denied the charges and considers his agent work heroic and needful, claiming he saved the life of a friend sentenced to death for his involvement in the revolution of 1956.

Istvan Szabo is one of the most critically acclaimed Hungarian film directors of the past few decades. In the 1960s and 󈨊s he directed auteur films in Hungarian, which explore his own generation’s experiences and recent Hungarian history (Apa (1966) Szerelmesfilm (1970) Tuzoltó utca 25. (1973)). For the public beyond art house cinema, his signature film trilogy consists of Mephisto (1981, winner of an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and a Cannes Award for the Best Screenplay), Colonel Redl (1984, winner of a Jury Prize at the Cannes Festival) and Hanussen (1988). He made a switch to English-language films with Meeting Venus (1991), Sunshine (1999), Taking Sides (2001) and most recently Being Julia (2004), which garnered an Oscar nomination for actress Annette Bening.

His most acclaimed films came from his work with famed Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer, and his ongoing collaboration and friendship with cinematographer Lajos Koltai. In 1996 he was awarded with
the Hungarian Pulitzer Memory Prize (not be confused with the original Pulitzer Prize) for his TV documentary series, “The hundred years of cinema”.

Szabó László István az informatika tudományok tanára

Hungary traces its history back to the hungarians , an alliance of semi-nomadic tribes from southern Russia and the Black Sea coast that arrived in the region in the ninth century. After centuries as a powerful medieval kingdom, Hungary was part of the Ottoman and then Habsburg empires from the 16th century onwards, emerging as an independent country again after World War I. The Hungarian language belongs to the Finno-Ugric family and is one of the handful of languages spoken within the European Union that are not of Indo-European origin. A landlocked country, Hungary is home to Lake Balaton, the largest in central Europe, and to a large number of spa towns and hot springs. At a glance International: Hungary joined NATO in 1999 and the EU in 2004. The EU has expressed concerns over what it sees as Hungary's failure to respect European democratic standards since 2010 It has especially rich traditions in folk and classical music and was the birthplace of numerous outstanding performers and composers, including Franz Liszt, Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly. Hungary became co-equal partner with Austria in a dual monarchy in the mid-19th century after an unsuccessful revolt against the Habsburgs in 1848. After a period of turmoil following World War I, an independent kingdom of Hungary was established under the authoritarian regency of Admiral Miklos Horthy. The redrawing of European borders that took place after World War I left about five million ethnic Hungarians living in neighbouring countries. Their status remains a sensitive issue and has complicated Hungary's relations with its neighbours. Following World War II, in which Admiral Horthy had allied himself with Germany, Hungary fell under communist rule. An uprising in 1956 was crushed by Red Army forces, but Hungary did later become the first Eastern European country to gain some economic freedom. Hungary played an important part in accelerating the collapse of communism across Eastern Europe when it opened its border with Austria in 1989, allowing thousands of East Germans to escape to the West. Just a few months later the Berlin Wall was history. Hungary's post-communist economic transition was achieved relatively smoothly. Within four years of the collapse of communism nearly half of the country's economic enterprises had been transferred to the private sector, and by 1998 Hungary was attracting nearly half of all foreign direct investment in Central Europe. Ten years later, the picture looked rather less rosy. A high level of both private and state borrowing left the country particularly vulnerable to the credit crunch of 2008, and in October of that year the government was forced to appeal to the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank for massive loans in a bid to stave off economic collapse.

In this shattering film, the faustian allure of Nazism

When you study the long, infuriating, and infuriatingly long careers of the Third Reich’s major creative figures, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the public doesn’t give a shit about art. The propaganda films of Leni Riefenstahl were invaluable weapons for the Nazi Party of the 1930s, but after the war she was charged with no crime and by the 1970s she was photographing Bianca Jagger and winning plaudits from the Times. Albert Speer, Hitler’s close friend and favorite architect, spent twenty years in prison for his role in the war effort, but within a few years of his release he was a BBC guest and a bestselling author. All of which seems to reflect the conventional wisdom that artists are enjoyable but basically ineffectual — easy to excuse for their involvement in war and genocide because said involvement is, by definition, minimal.

This conventional wisdom is especially ludicrous in the case of the Nazis, given that film, architecture, fashion, sculpture and the elaborate choreography of the rally weren’t incidental parts of the Reich but its very essence. The actor Gustaf Gründgens was, at various times in the fifteen years leading up to the fall of Berlin, the artistic director of the Prussian State Theater a friend and confidant of Hermann Göring a scene-stealing bit player in Fritz Lang’s “M” the Führer’s favorite leading man and quite possibly the most sensational Mephistopheles to grace Berlin stages since Goethe finished “Faust.” In spite of his innumerable close ties to the most ruthless Nazis, he spent the postwar years in West Berlin, playing famous parts and basking in international acclaim, seemingly without an ounce of guilt. His last words, scrawled on an envelope before he died in 1963, were, “I think I have taken too many sleeping pills, I feel a little odd, let me sleep.”

Mephisto: Klaus Maria Brandauer strikes a number of Faustian bargains in Istvan Szabo’s 1981 film.

István Szabó’s 1981 film “Mephisto” is, after a fashion, a life of Gründgens. It is also, despite being an Academy Award-winning movie about the Holocaust, very good. Much of its goodness lies in the skill which Szabó prods and jerks his Gründgens-esque protagonist — Hendrik Höfgen, played by the wonderful Klaus Maria Brandauer — into revealing what the real Gründgens never did: anguished self-awareness. In the film’s final, dreamlike moments, Hendrik staggers into a Speerian arena, and a pale, pitiless spotlight nudges him down the stairs. It’s unclear if he’s about to be cheered or executed by firing squad. His talents have deserted him his pretty face projects nothing but babyish helplessness. After years of strutting and soliloquizing for his Nazi patrons, he’s reduced to a one-sentence defense: “I am only an actor!”

Yes, and Speer was only an architect, and Riehenstahl was only a filmmaker. The truth, as anyone who’s made it this far can’t help but see, is that Hendrik provides a crucial part of the totalitarian con job, the velvet glove that beautifies Hitler’s bloody fist. In keeping with its main character’s point of view, “Mephisto” is one of the rare films about the Reich that show more velvet than blood, its runtime a slow, often nauseating slather of dinners, balls, luncheons, and cast parties. Szábo shows just enough violence to explain why he doesn’t show more — early on, when a pack of Nazis beats up a Jew, Hendrik mutters, “drunken idiots!” and walks on. It’s a strange and strangely effective staging, and as scenes of this kind slowly accumulate we realize that Hendrik isn’t missing the Nazis’ acts of barbarism but choosing to ignore them.

There’s another reason for the film’s restraint. Szábo adapted “Mephisto” from a 1936 novel by Klaus Mann (Thomas’s son) when Mann was finishing his book, Germany hadn’t yet invaded Poland. Kristallnacht was still three years away. The Reich’s evil was already apparent to many, but its worst deeds lay ahead. Accordingly, Mann’s subject wasn’t evil itself so much as the slow, cheerful descent thereto. His frog-in-boiling-water protagonist, modeled on Gründgens in all but name, initially collaborates with the Nazis because they seem harmless, then because he deludes himself into thinking he can save his friends, then because it’s the right career move, and finally because he’s gotten this far and might as well go all the way.

Nobody could deny that Mann knew his subject. As young men, he and Gründgens had been close friends, and in the late 1920s Gründgens had briefly been married to Mann’s older sister Erika. Both Mann and Gründgens were attracted to men it’s even possible that they slept with each other. Both had passionately denounced Nazis in the days when it was still legal to do so. When Hitler took power in 1933, however, Mann fled Germany while Gründgens stayed behind and reinvented himself as the embodiment of Fascist rigor, patriotism and sexuality. Reading “Mephisto,” one senses not merely moral disapproval but a stronger, more painful sense of betrayal — Mann raking his old friend over the coals because he thinks he knows how easy it would have been to say, “No.” (The motif of hidden homosexuality is remarkably well-represented in fictions about Fascism, from Visconti’s “The Damned” to Bertolucci’s “The Conformist,” but Mann doesn’t dwell on this aspect of Gründgens’s private life—in novel and film, Hendrik is strictly heterosexual.)

When Szábo introduces us to Hendrik, he’s midway through a tantrum. A popular actor tied to a regional theater, he’s skilled but unfulfilled, and in a profession where youth is everything his opportunities for fulfillment are rapidly running out. He tells anyone who’ll listen about his plans for a Bolshevik theater — “I’ll bring the stage to the people!” — but even early on we suspect that radical politics are a means to an end, a way of guaranteeing success at all costs. Hendrik’s fortunes improve shortly after the Nazis win control of the government he is summoned to Berlin, where he rises quickly through the acting ranks, partly by being the best man for the job and partly by charming the right wives. The more eagerly Hendrik seduces his way to the top, the more he allows Germany’s new elite to seduce him.

The moral drama of the film’s second half rests on the broad shoulders of a remarkable German actor named Rolf Hoppe, whose character, a Nazi official referred to only as “Prime Minister,” is clearly modeled on Gründgens’s real-life friend Hermann Göring. Hoppe makes the Prime Minister a quiet, soft-eyed herbivore, attractive to Hendrik because he’s an ideal audience. He nods along with Hendrik’s pompous speeches, showers him in praise and money, calls him “Mephisto” with a gentle smile that barely hides contempt. In return, Hendrik gladly bends his performances to suit the needs of the state. By the film’s end he’s holding long, nonsensical press conferences about how his new production of “Hamlet” will “bring the stage to the people” by presenting the hero as the ideal Fascist man of action.

That Hendrik, more Faust than Mephistopheles, has sold his soul for worldly glory is a reversal that will be lost on no one who’s paid attention for the last two hours, and even someone who stumbles into the theater with fifteen minutes to go should be able to recall that Shakespeare’s melancholy Dane was supposed to be a man of inaction. “Mephisto” is at its least compelling in moments like these, when it slathers itself in irony to reward viewers for knowing simple things about history and literature. At least some of this can be blamed on Mann’s novel. Mann wrote:

Shameful, treacherous, tawdry, transitory — isn’t there something a little self-serving about this passage, even if it’s right on the main points? Klaus Mann wrote prolifically and without much success the little acclaim he got reminded him how much more he felt he deserved. He seems to have despised the Nazis and — at the same time and with equal force — envied his ex-brother-in-law for winning their hearts. The ferocity with which he prosecutes Gründgens recalls, strangely enough, the way the Safecracker, the gangster Gründgens played in “M,” prosecutes Peter Lorre’s child killing villain — the obvious guilt of the accused obscures the dubious mixture of rage and revenge and bad faith in the accuser.

This isn’t to suggest anything like a moral equivalence between Mann and Gründgens, only that there’s a moral difference between recognizing that Gründgens committed an act of evil and punishing him with heavy-handed satire. As Mann begins his novel, Hendrik is already secure in his status as the Third Reich’s favorite actor, cheered on by patrons who secretly despise him. It’s a long, clumsy scene, so overdetermined in its view of the characters (even the Nazis hate this guy!) that we wonder why we need to keep reading. By opening on the final stage of Hendrik’s seduction, Mann inoculates us against empathy or identification of any kind — you get the sense that he is flattering his readers’ moral intelligence as a way of celebrating his own. A quote from the film critic Luc Moullet comes to mind: “on fascism, only the point of view of someone who has been tempted is of any interest.”

“Mephisto” the film gets a great many things right that its source gets wrong. Not least of all, it pushes us to feel some of the temptation Moullet hints at — i.e., to identify with a character we can’t help but regard as a sniveling toady. As Hendrik, Klaus Maria Brandauer wavers between likeable and grotesque, sadistic and clueless, jaw-droppingly brilliant and merely perfect. His face is a cipher of smirks, twitches, and raised eyebrows, and he’s possessed of a rich physical vocabulary, pirouetting around the stage in one scene and rolling around on the floor with his mistress in the next. By design, Brandauer’s charisma does not quite dominate the screen. He’s playing something close to but not quite the same as a leading man, and the gap between his character’s reach and grasp is a finely calibrated miracle.

Brandauer’s reward for all this, as is often the case with talented, thick-accented heavies, was to become a character actor in high-grossing English-language mediocrities like “Never Say Never Again” and “Out of Africa.” (He, too, surrendered to temptation.) But in “Mephisto,” he forces two painful realizations: first, that the horrors of the Third Reich were only possible because of oblivious, narcissistic cowards like Hendrik Höfgen second, that, under similar conditions, the vast majority of us would be standing cheek to cheek with those cowards. Any number of popular films from the past ten years have sparked debate about the degree to which we’re supposed to see ourselves in the characters. One unspoken premise of these debates, as they usually play out online, is that empathy and condemnation are mutually exclusive and opposite responses — that if you walk out of “The Wolf of Wall Street” despising Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, you must, by definition, be incapable of feeling any affinity with him. “Mephisto” suggests that it’s never that simple, not in art and certainly not in life. Hendrik’s temptation is repulsive and alluring both—it’s hard to imagine an apter lead in a film about fascism.

Gabor Szabo

Gabor Szabo was one of the most original guitarists to emerge in the 1960s, mixing his Hungarian folk music heritage with a deep love of jazz and crafting a distinctive, largely self-taught sound. Inspired by a Roy Rogers cowboy movie, Szabo began playing guitar when he was 14 and often played in dinner clubs and covert jam sessions while still living in Budapest. He escaped from his country at age 20 on the eve of the Communist uprising and eventually made his way to America, settling with his family in California. He attended Berklee College (1958-1960) and in 1961 joined Chico Hamilton's innovative quintet featuring Charles Lloyd. Urged by Hamilton, Szabo crafted a most distinctive sound as agile on intricate, nearly-free runs as he was able to sound inspired during melodic passages. Szabo left the Hamilton group in 1965 to leave his mark on the pop-jazz of the Gary McFarland quintet and the energy music of Charles Lloyd's fiery and underrated quartet featuring Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Szabo initiated a solo career in 1966, recording the exceptional album, Spellbinder, which yielded many inspired moments and "Gypsy Queen," the song Santana turned into a huge hit in 1970. Szabo formed an innovative quintet (1967-1969) featuring the brilliant, classically trained guitarist Jimmy Stewart and recorded many notable albums during the late '60s. The emergence of rock music (especially George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix) found Szabo experimenting with feedback and more commercially oriented forms of jazz. During the '70s, Szabo regularly performed along the West Coast, hypnotizing audiences with his enchanting, spellbinding style. From 1970, he locked into a commercial groove, even though records like Mizrab occasionally revealed his seamless jazz, pop, Gypsy, Indian, and Asian fusions. Szabo had revisited his homeland several times during the '70s, finding opportunities to perform brilliantly with native talents. He was hospitalized during his final visit and died in 1982, just short of his 46th birthday.

Genealogy Resources for the Surname SZABO

Szabo Surname Project
Learn about the Szabo DNA Surname Project at Family Tree DNA.

Szabo Family Crest - It's Not What You Think
Contrary to what you may hear, there is no such thing as a Szabo family crest or coat of arms for the Szabo surname. Coats of arms are granted to individuals, not families, and may rightfully be used only by the uninterrupted male line descendants of the person to whom the coat of arms was originally granted.

SZABO Family Genealogy Forum
This free message board is focused on descendants of Szabo ancestors around the world.

FamilySearch - SZABO Genealogy
Access over 1.9 million free historical records and lineage-linked family trees posted for the Szabo surname and its variations on this free genealogy website hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

SZABO Surname Mailing List
This free RootsWeb mailing list for researchers of the Szabo surname and its variations includes subscription details and searchable archives of past messages.

The Szabo Genealogy and Family Tree Page
Browse family trees and links to genealogical and historical records for individuals with the last name Szabo from the website of Genealogy Today.

Watch the video: István, a király iskolába megy.. ISTVÁN - Szabó Hunor (August 2022).