Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Hungary/West Germany/Austria, 1988. Central Cinema Company Film, Hungarofilm, Mafilm, Mokép, Objektív Filmstúdió Vállalat, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen. Screenplay by Peter Dobai, Istvan Szabo, dialogue by Gabriella Prekop, additional material by Paul Hengge, based on the autobiography by Erik Jan Hanussen. Cinematography by Lajos Koltai. Produced by Artur Brauner. Music by Zdenko Tamassy, Gyorgy Vukan. Production Design by Jozsef Romvari. Costume Design by Zsuzsa Stenger, Nelly Vago. Film Editing by Zsuzsa Csakany, Brigitta Kajdacsi, Bettina Rekuc, Eva Szentandrasi. Academy Awards 1988. Cannes Film Festival 1988. Golden Globe Awards 1988. Independent Spirit Awards 1989.
Klaus Maria Brandauer is perfectly cast as a man who got all of Germanic Europe under his sway with his forceful personality and claims at clairvoyance. Injured in battle during World War I, Klaus Schneider recovers and finds he has the ability to read thoughts, control others’ actions and predict the future. Once his talent gets out there under his new name and his past experience as a circus showman is thrown into the mix, his life’s progress, mirroring that of the increasingly powerful Adolf Hitler (with whom he shares a birthday) comes to mean danger for him as his own influence grows. Elegantly filmed and directed by Istvan Szabo, this one could use a little ironic skepticism to punctuate the many scenes of Hanussen basically being a superhero; much of it is based on his own autobiography and the film takes his claims with far too few grains of salt. There’s no doubt he’s a fascinating subject for film whether or not you accept his claims at power, however, and he is brilliantly served by the commanding screen presence of Brandauer, who makes you believe he could get you to do whatever he wanted as well.