Redl is a man in an iron mask. At the expense of his poverty-stricken family, his Jewishness, homosexuality and friends, he makes a dramatic rise through the ranks of the feuding army of the crumbling Hapsburg Empire, only to discover, under the dyspeptic tutelage of the Archduke, that he will always be a suspicious, disposable intruder into the upper classes. Brandauer's towering performance minutely marks the gradual disintegration of Redl's mask and his final exposure at the point of death. Szabó's film is visually magnificent, shot with a crisp clarity which never succumbs to romantic nostalgia. The suicide of the real-life Redl was the subject of John Osborne's notorious A Patriot for Me. But where Osborne revelled in the decadence and debauchery, Szabó gives an extraordinary, chilling, complex account of a man's betrayal of himself.