Review: Oberst Redl – Colonel Redl (1985)

Oberst Redl – Colonel Redl (1985)

Directed by: Istvan Szabo | 139 minutes | drama, war, romance, biography | Actors: Klaus Maria Brandauer, Hans Christian Blech, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Gudrun Landgrebe, Jan Niklas, László Mensáros, András Bálint, László Gálffi, Dorottya Udvaros, Károly Eperjes, Róbert Rátonyi, Péter Gyula Benorbai, , Gyula Gazdag, Flóra Kádár, Ágnes T. Katona, Mária Majláth, Tamás Major, László Méhes, Athina Papadimitriu, Tamás Puskás, György Rácz, Péter Rudolf, Anikó Sáfár, GájÉ Svidrony Sódrony, Canyás Svidrony , Edward Zentara

‘Oberst Redl’ is set against a background of true historical events, but the specific story in this film did not literally unfold as such. The film is inspired by the real life, and death, of Alfred Redl, a colonel in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and it makes suggestions about possible influences and consequences of behaviors, but these should be experienced by the viewer in a subjective way . This becomes clear in the first few minutes of the film, among other things, by the camera work. This is because it concerns a first person perspective, in which we see the inhabitants of a village looking straight into the camera, and it is as if we, as a viewer, are infringing on their households. Later, the person everyone looks at and reacts to turns out to be little Alfred Redl.

Even as a young boy, Redl has been very much in favor of the emperor, and is introduced in the film as he reads a poem of his own writing, in honor of the emperor, in class. The extent of his loyalty to the Emperor is illustrated by the scene in which little Redl is informed that his father has died, but nevertheless chooses not to attend the funeral in order to be able to attend the Emperor’s name day at church. to make. With wide eyes he hears the priest as he exclaims the connection of those present with the emperor.

Redl is accepted into a military academy and becomes best friends with Kristof Kubinyi, whose sister Katalin, whom he meets when he is invited to his boyfriend’s house, is a real attraction to him. Later, when he is an adult, however, it turns out that he has just as strong feelings for Kristof himself. Typical is a scene in a cafe in which he has gone upstairs with a hooker, but only gets aroused when he talks or thinks about Kristof, and only really grabs the woman in the room when he has his friend in the next room in action. seen.

It is these two elements, Brandauer’s imperialism, combined with his sexual orientation, that together form the driving force of the film. These are qualities that are difficult to combine, at least not overtly. If one finds out about his sexuality, his career in the military is a thing of the past, and for a man with as much ambition as Redl, this would be terrible. Hence, he marries only one woman to quell bubbling rumours. But of course this is only an attitude towards the outside world. Inside, Redl continues to crave his male fellow man, and Kristof in particular.

Gradually, Redl moves up the ranks in the military because of his leadership qualities and discipline. But the problem isn’t just that he has to hide his homosexuality. The same goes for his poor background, the fact that he is Jewish, and his regional origin. Brandauer’s acting therefore mainly concerns (showing) subcutaneous emotions and he performs this task in a great way. Often several underlying emotions can be read from his face at the same time.

It is fascinating to see how Redl tries to satisfactorily combine or suppress his various ambitions and wishes. In addition, the contrast between his political-military ambitions and those of his mates or superiors is interesting to observe. He is one of the few still a supporter of the monarchy and someone who has high regard for the old emperor and this causes tensions; especially when he gets a higher and higher position. So steps need to be taken quickly to stop Redl by his opponents. They devise a plan to trap Redl, ultimately leaving him the honor of saying goodbye. The scene in which he does this is unconventionally but believably realised. Redl paces his room, full of screaming emotions, as he tries to make up his mind. His life in a nutshell.

‘Oberst Redl’, the second film in the Szabós Brandauer trilogy, is painted with less broad strokes like Mephisto, and is therefore perhaps less compelling than that film. At the same time, this is also the strength of the film, and is inherent in Redl’s character. Fewer emotions splash off the screen, but a lot of interesting things take place under the skin and thematically. This ensures that the film is not inferior to its Oscar-winning predecessor. Szabó and Brandauer again appear to form a golden combination.

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