I was leant a copy of Orson Welles‘s adaptation of Franz Kafka‘s The Trial. So I figured that Kafka films would make for a good theme for this week.

TheTrialDVDCoverI’m embarrassed to admit that what I knew about Kafka’s The Trial where the accused, Josef K is woken up in the middle of the night by some men in black arrested for a crime he didn’t commit (not made any easier since nobody says what the crime actually was) and dragged to a monolithic darkly lit trial room (presumably in The Castle) where he is inevitably found guilty. Turns out I was mostly wrong.

Josef K, played with brilliant innocence by  Anthony Perkins, is indeed woken up by the Men in Black and arrested but from there it is completely different as K travels around the city looking for people to support and defend him and in the process getting an in depth study of human hypocrisy.

I’m not sure what I thought of this film. Technically Welles is on the top of his game, despite doing this on a shoestring budget, and watching his craft is always a pleasure to watch. But otherwise I couldn’t follow it… It was probably to esoteric for my tastes and I don’t think I’ll ever be part of Kafka’s target audience.

220px-Kafka_filmI was looking forward to my next selection Kafka mainly because it was a who’s who of some of my favorite talent led by Steven Soderbergh. It turned out to be one of the films that is a fictionalized version of the artist’s life with an ongoing plot with elements that inspire them to create their works. These movies included The Raven, about  Edgar Allan Poe and Shakespeare in Love about Shakespeare.

Here Kafka, played as a complete stuffed shirt by Jeremy Irons, is working as a clerk in an insurance firm in a dark monochrome version of Eastern Europe in the turn of the century. When the murder of a coworker pulls him into a web of government conspiracy and an anarchist movement.

I’m afraid this is hardly Soderbergh’s best work but I certainly enjoyed it for the most part. I’m sure it would be more entertaining for a fan of Kafka’s work since all but the most blatant Easter eggs in this film was lost on me. The most fun I had was watching people like Joel Grey, Ian Holm and Alec Guinness  do their job well, even if it was by the numbers work. My favorite part was the final act of the film where Kafka leaves reality completely to infiltrate the castle with the monochrome of the rest of the film turning to muted color.