The Lightship

Brandauer and Duvall

The Lightship should be a great film but isn’t. It goes wrong somewhere, particularly towards the end, when there’s a mad rush for the exit (or, the filmic equivalent, a mad rush to get everything said that needs saying before the big finish). It was released in 1985 and stars Robert Duvall and Klaus Maria Brandauer, two actors at the peak of their drawing power. At this point you could still smell the napalm on Duvall after Apocalypse Now, and his character here is a variation on Colonel Kilgore, the insane verbose genius. Opposite him the Austrian Klaus Maria Brandauer. In the wake of the success of 1981’s Mephisto (a Best Foreign Language … Read more


Hanussen on stage

Magic and the Nazis. Hanussen, the bizarre and true story of Eric Jan Hanussen, is ideal big screen material, you’d have thought, since the Austrian stage hypnotist and soothsayer was a charismatic performer who held Germans in his thrall in the dying days of the Weimar Republic and into the Nazi era. The parallels with Hitler are obvious, and once you add in the rumour that Hanussen was the man who taught Hitler his techniques of mass manipulation and crowd control, it has all the ingredients of a story with a ready audience. However, there have been only two attempts at it. A 1955 version which seems to have vanished into the ether, … Read more

Colonel Redl

Klaus Maria Brandauer as Colonel Redl

Colonel Redl is an adaptation of John Osborne’s play A Patriot for Me and charts the rise and fall of a soldier with opportunism where principles should be. It’s a sumptuous affair set in the dog days of the Austro-Hungarian empire and builds slowly towards a painfully frenzied climax, as did the previous collaboration between director István Szabó and actor Klaus Maria Brandauer. And as in Mephisto we’re following a man of few scruples making his way from relative obscurity to the top of his tree – the secret service in this case. Redl was a real man, an officer in the espionage wing of the Austro-Hungarian army who sold his country’s war … Read more