Set during the fading glory of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the film tells of the rise and fall of Alfred Redl (Brandauer), an ambitious young officer who proceeds up the ladder to become ... See full summary »
Set during the fading glory of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the film tells of the rise and fall of Alfred Redl (Brandauer), an ambitious young officer who proceeds up the ladder to become head of the Secret Police only to become ensnared in political deception. Written by
Dawn M. Barclift
"Colonel Redl" bears some interesting comparisons with "Lawrence of Arabia". In both films, the central character defines himself through a military career. Both characters are gay men. Both are ultimately exploited by the military entities in which they have found some identity. "Colonel Redl" could almost be called a 'chamber Lawrence': Redl gains no experience in the field--his exploits are mainly political, something he hates, yet is quite adept at manipulating. Redl's homosexuality is made explicit, while David Lean's film only hints at Lawrence's orientation.
One of "Redl"'s great strengths is its convincing portrayal of conscious, yet suppressed, homosexuality in an earlier historical context. Redl's scenes with Katalin--the perceptive sister of his love object--are models of expressing unspoken feelings. While a scene of Redl watching the handsome Kubinyi have sex with a prostitute, and a later scene with his own male lover are without ambiguity. At the same time, it must be said that homosexuality in this film is not truly a subject. It really functions to underline Redl's status as an outsider. He is also part Jewish, part Catholic, part Ukrainian, part Hungarian. Within his socio-political context, there is nowhere to fit.
Klaus Maria Brandauer, in a brilliant performance, embodies the tormented conflicts of Redl, while maintaining a sympathetic side of the character. This fascinating film is loaded with irony and pain at nearly every turn.
The DVD issue of "Colonel Redl" contains a 22-minute documentary interview with director Istvan Szabo, featuring scenes from the 'trilogy' of which "Colonel Redl" makes up the second part, and comments from Brandauer.
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