The third collaboration between director Istvan Szabo and actor Klaus Maria Brandauer (following MEPHISTO, which won a Best Foreign Film Oscar, and COLONEL REDL), HANUSSEN tells the story of an Austrian army sergeant (Brandauer) who sustains a head injury during WW I and is hospitalized.
Under the care of doctor Josephson, Brandauer learns that he is clairvoyant and begins an odyssey through Central Europe that takes him from Budapest, where he hooks up with impresario Eperjes, to Vienna, where he performs professionally for the first time. In Karlsbad, he is arrested for fraud;
later, in Berlin, Brandauer makes predictions for the Nazis, who are delighted with him only so long as his forecasts bode well for Hitler and the Third Reich.
HANUSSEN is not only about a charismatic figure armed with a potentially dangerous and extremely useful gift, it is also about Central European politics and society in the 20s and 30s. Where Szabo comes up short, however, is in his selection of the usually reliable Brandauer for the title role, a
part that calls for a charisma that Brandauer simply doesn't deliver. Though production designer Jozsef Romvari's appropriately decadent Berlin interiors are impeccable, the film conveys little sense of the events happening outside these walls, and as a result the threat of Hitler and the Nazis is
never felt. Ultimately, HANUSSEN's saving grace is its still relevant message--an emphasis on the importance of the individual in societies in which politicians systematically deny the rights of individuals. The film earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film, losing to PELLE THE CONQUEROR.
(Violence, adult situations.)
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