Béla Balázs (4 August 1884, Szeged17 May 1949, Budapest), born Herbert Bauer, was a HungarianJewish film critic, aesthete, writer and poet.

He was the son of German-born parents, adopting his nom de plume in newspaper articles written before his 1902 move to Budapest, where he studied Hungarian and German at the Eötvös Collegium.

He is perhaps best remembered as the librettist of Bluebeard’s Castle which he originally wrote for his roommate Zoltán Kodály, who in turn introduced him to the eventual composer of the opera, Béla Bartók. This collaboration continued with the scenario for the ballet The Wooden Prince.

The collapse of the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic under Béla Kun in 1919 began a long period of exile in Vienna and Germany and, from 1933 until 1945, the Soviet Union. György Lukács, a close friend during their youth, became a bitter enemy during the ordeal of the Stalinist purges.

In Vienna he became a prolific writer of film reviews. His first book on film, Der Sichtbare Mensch (The Visible Man) (1924), helped found the German “film as a language” theory, which also exerted an influence on Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin. A popular consultant, he wrote the screenplay for G. W. Pabst’s film of Die Dreigroschenoper (1931), which became the object of a scandal and lawsuit by Brecht (who admitted to not reading the script) during production.

Later, he co-wrote (with Carl Mayer) and helped Leni Riefenstahl direct the film Das Blaue Licht (1932). Riefenstahl later removed his and Mayer’s name from the credits because they were Jewish. One of his best known films is Somewhere in Europe (It Happened in Europe, 1947), directed by Géza von Radványi).

His last years were marked by petty vexations at home and ever increasing recognition in the German speaking world. In 1949, he received the most distinguished prize in Hungary, the Kossuth Prize. Also in 1949, he finished Theory of the Film published posthumously in English (London: Denis Dobson, 1952). In 1958, the Béla Balázs Prize was founded and named for him as an award to recognize achievements in cinematography.