Monday, June 21, 2021

#2,588. Colonel Redl (1985)


Colonel Redl, István Szabó’s award-winning biopic about a military officer in pre-World War One Austria/Hungary, is a fascinating character study, centering on a man whose love of country was overshadowed by his personal demons.

Alfred Redl (Klaus Maria Brandauer) rose from meager beginnings to become one of the most decorated soldiers in the Hapsburg Empire. His determination so impresses his superior, Colonel Von Roden (Hans Christian Blech), that he hand-picks Redl to head up the all-important counter-espionage unit.

But Redl, a closet homosexual, had, from an early age, developed feelings for his boyhood friend and fellow officer Kristof Kubinyi (Jan Niklas), an infatuation that, if discovered, could jeopardize his career.

From what I’ve read, Colonel Redl isn’t historically accurate (the Archduke Ferdinand, played here by Armin Mueller-Stahl, didn’t plot against Redl, as depicted in the film).

But never mind; Szabó still manages to convey his lead’s insecurities in a convincing manner (though he outranked him, Redl felt inferior to Kubinyi, whose family was much more prestigious than his own), and Brandauer delivers a stirring performance as the title character; we understand both the man and his motivations, even when his actions are, at best, dubious (late in the film, he’s willing to do whatever is necessary to advance - then protect - his career).

Winner of the Jury Prize at the 1985 Cannes Festival as well as that year’s BAFTA for Best Foreign Language Film, Colonel Redl is a movie you’ll want to seek out.
Rating: 9 out of 10

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