The star (Klaus Maria Brandauer), director (Istvan Szabo), and most of the plot of Mephisto back for another try, and it's better this time: the period setting is handsomely realized, the photography (by Lajos Koltai) is properly showy and imaginative, the performances are a little less abrasively theatrical, and the moralism is not nearly as heavy-handed. Still, it remains a dry, lightly academic piece that peddles its themes at the expense of a deep engagement with character and situation. Brandauer's colonel is a bright peasant boy who, in the late 1800s, seizes on a military career as a way of advancing his social position, and rises through the ranks of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by informing on his friends. Szabo suggests, more subtly than might be expected, that Redl's ruthlessness is a symptom of his fiercely repressed homosexuality. With Gudrun Landgrebe, Hans-Christian Blech, and Armin Mueller-Stahl; a German-Hungarian coproduction.
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