Germany, 1933. With the rise to power of the Nazi party that from a democracy turned Germany into a nationalist-fueled dictatorship, Hendrik, a prominent young actor in the vibrant German theatre, finds himself in the eye of the political storm. This young man who at the start of his career held leftist views, does not hesitate to deny his worldview and take on a new persona. Thenceforth his entire world is focused on a single desire: to appear in moving and amusing roles, to don an appropriate mask and costume and become a different character. His passion for acting and the audience’s love lead him to sell his soul and join the new regime and its representatives, among them Hermann Goering who is fervently plundering cultural treasures.
Thus Hendrik flourishes in Nazi Germany. He is appointed director of the National Theatre, he is given the best roles, revels in the adulation, severs ties with his friends, lives a lie, and in the end, when from the height of his success he is forced to face up to his betrayal, he has only one thing to say: “I’m just an actor.”
Mephisto, adapted from Klaus Mann’s famous novel, which was also made into a successful film, engages with the artist and his conscience: Can he permit himself to avoid voicing an opinion and hide behind the characters he plays without committing himself in the face of political reality?