Thursday, August 05, 2010

Who's on Faust

Mephisto: Brilliantly incisive retelling of the Faust story. Klaus Maria Brandauer plays an actor with vague socialist leanings but a stronger sense of personal ambition, who is tempted by the promise of success the Nazi party offers, and compromises himself and his ideals, all the while offering platitudes and excuses. Of course it's bigger than that, with Brandauer's experience being an allegory for that of the whole German people post-Weimar, and the complexities of compromise explored through the various characters. There are also some clever breaches of the fourth wall in which the audience is placed as a character in the film, and a very Prisoneresque sequence in which an entire wedding party, some masked as devils and animals, dance wildly to the German tune Im Grunewald.

Passion of the Christ: Disappointingly conventional retelling of the Crucifixion story. Yes, it's gory; yes, they went to a lot of trouble recreating first-century Palestine, yes, everyone's speaking Aramaic or Latin, but Jesus is European-looking, Mary Magdalene is the Woman Taken in Adultery, the implications of Pilate's washing of his hands as regards his culpability in the whole affair is skated over quickly. Even the gore is hardly without precedent (go take a look at 15th century Flemish religious art). If you want a straight presentation of the modern mainstream Protestant take on the Crucifixion, watch it, but if you want a consideration of the implications of the story for society and religion, frankly, you're better off watching Ben Hur.

Movie Count for 2010: 81