ISTVAN SZABO, COLONEL REDL (1984) 2 HRS 29 MINS (LD)
Note: This film guide is part of a collection of film guides on history, politics, and war.
THE DIRECTOR: ISTVAN SZABO (1938-)
Hungarian. Born in Budapest 1938. Educated at Academy of Theatre and Film Art. Graduates 1961. First feature film 1964. Early films dealt with everyday life in post-war Budapest. Contrast between dreams and aspirations of individual versus disappointing reality. In 1980s worked on collaborative projects with West German production companies tracing the interplay of individual ambition, the corrupting effects of political power, and self-betrayal.
Trilogy of historical dramas
- "Mephisto" (1981) about a vain and ambitious actor who sells his soul to the Hitler régime in order to become the director of theatre production
- "Colonel Redl" (1984)
- "Hanussen" (1988) about an Austrian soldier in WW1 who is shot in the head and is able to read minds and tell the future.
Based on the true story of Alfred Redl (Klaus Maria Brandauer) and the play by John Osborne, "A Patriot for Me." AR is the son of a humble railway worker, very patriotic and ambitious, able to get a place at the military academy. Eventually rises to become deputy-head of the Imperial-and-Royal (kaiserliche und königliche "k & k") Army Intelligence in the last days of the Empire before WW1. He is successful because he is a yes-man and is able to construct a cloak of deception in order to hide his bisexuality and Jewishness from his colleagues and superiors. In spite of the fact that his mentor is the Archduke, R is never able to shake off the fact of his class origin and become a fully accepted member of the aristocratic ruling élite. Becomes a double agent working for the Tsar of Russia. IS minutely depicts the gradual unravelling of R's deception until he is finally exposed and forced to commit suicide.
THINGS TO NOTE
- The opening music is a Strauss waltz.
- The bastardisation which takes place at the cadet school. Running the gauntlet. Compare with "The Round Up."
- Cadets regard Kaiser Franz Joseph as their "godfather." An indissoluble bond ties them to army, Kaiser, God, Fatherland.
- Discussion among officers of Ausgleich of 1867. Resentment by Hungarians of suppression of Hungarian uprising by Austrian General Haynau. Antagonism between Austrian and Hungarian officers.
- Anti-Semitism of officers.
- AR begins spying when forced to dob in fellow cadet to Commandant; spy on subaltern Schorn who publicly attacked corruption of army in the press
- Conflict between those who wish to rise up within army based on merit vs privilege of birth. At award ceremony award-winning officers line up according to social rank to receive medals from Archduke.
- Problem of corruption within army, Austro-Hungarian society. AR wants to save monarchy from collapse. Comes to suspect military coup, he has been set up, comes to hate monarchy he wanted to save. He was fighting on the wrong side.
- Archduke's fear that "spirit of liberalism" destroying Empire. Need for a "common enemy" (spy, Jew) to strengthen army and society. Scapegoat cannot be an Austrian, Hungarian, Czech, Serb, Croat because it would alienate minorities. Ruthenian fallguy like AR would harm no one. Archduke advocates short war after an assassination instead of treason trial to save monarchy. Irony that he would be assassinated, start WW1, cause Empire to collapse.
- Note ballroom conversation on the breakup of the Empire. Masked ball. Theme of AR wearing various "masks" in order to rise up ranks.
- Aria from Mozart's "Magic Flute" by Papageno.
- Extraordinary scene where AR gathers courage to kill himself.