Joseph K. awakes one morning, to find two strange men in his room, telling him he has been arrested. Joseph is not told what he is charged with, and despite being "arrested," is allowed to ... See full summary »
David Hugh Jones
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Josef K wakes up in the morning and finds the police in his room. They tell him that he is on trial but nobody tells him what he is accused of. In order to find out about the reason of this accusation and to protest his innocence, he tries to look behind the facade of the judicial system. But since this remains fruitless, there seems to be no chance for him to escape from this Kafkaesque nightmare. Written by
Joern Richts <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Orson Welles reportedly dubbed a few lines of 'Anthony Perkins'' dialog. Perkins later said he could never figure out which lines they were. See more »
When Josef K. follows Hilda being carried out of the large trial room/hall by the law student, he hastily grabs and throws on his suit jacket. In the succeeding scenes, the jacket's buttons which are buttoned changes. See more »
Before the law, there stands a guard. A man comes from the country, begging admittance to the law. But the guard cannot admit him. May he hope to enter at a later time? That is possible, said the guard. The man tries to peer through the entrance. He'd been taught that the law was to be accessible to every man. "Do not attempt to enter without my permission", says the guard. I am very powerful. Yet I am the least of all the guards. From hall to hall, door after door, each guard is ...
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The end cast credits are read over by Orson Welles without titles See more »
This is how you film a literary classic: not by toadying to it, but by assuming that you created it yourself.
This is probably Welles' most complete masterpiece since CITIZEN KANE. Not that it's better than AMBERSONS or TOUCH OF EVIL, but there's a wholeness, a freedom from interference, a focusing of vision that's complete. It's also a relief to be able (for once)to enjoy a Welles performance from this period, rather than laughing with him at its crass silliness. Akim Tamiroff is (as ever) extraordinary, while Anthony Perkins captures the mixture of nervousness and arrogance central to Welles' K.
THE TRIAL is also a textbook lesson in how to film a classic text. While cinema thrives on the second-rate, transcending and enriching banality, it tends to founder when it appropriates the Great Works, due in part to the incompatibility of forms, but mostly because of pointless reverence. Why bother being completely faithful to, say, Howard's End, when we can read the book. Surely the only reasons to film a classic are to a)make it adaptable to film form; b)make it relevant to our age; or c)make it relevant to the director's sensibility.
Welles, on one level, is certainly faithful to Kafka's vision. We get a nightmare depiction of bureaucracy gone mad, of the increasing, unidentifiable totalitarianism of modern life, of the persecution of the individual, of the impossibility of rebellion and alternatives. The sense of labyrinth and nightmare, and a desolate world abandoned by God, is chillingly evoked in the film's astonishing visual framework, the hallucinatory set-pieces, the disorientating comedy, the bewildering logic. The knowledge that K.'s workplace was filmed in a disused railway station only adds to the film's complexity - this is a society cut off from other people, ideas, civilisations; one where there is no coming or going, no escape.
And yet Welles subverts all this. By removing Kafka's ambiguity, he makes the work more ambiguous. Unlike the book, Welles draws attention to the fact that this is a nightmare. K. begins the film getting dressed, and ends it stripping, the reverse process of going to sleep (i.e. to move plausibly back from the dream world to reality, K. has to return to the state that led to dream, unclothed in bed).
The suggestion that his adventures are a dream draws attention to the film's main theme - the dangers of solipsism. K. is a paranoid - because he sees the world only from his point of view, he feels that everyone is out to get him. His selfishness is subtly hinted at throughout the film, by his stated profession not to get involved with anything, to avoid problems, to avoid others' problems, to keep himself to himself, and get on. Of course, this means that no-one will help him, as he finds out throughout the film. And if everybody is indifferent to their neighbour, than no wonder people are burned in death camps. Wasn't that the excuse of 'ordinary' Germans after the war? 'We knew nothing about it'.
That's why well-fed K. with his privileged job, is greeted by a gaunt group of camp victims. Welles has to remould The Trial in the knowledge of the Final Solution. This is accomplished by parodying K.'s us vs. them outlook,k with a complex doubling pattern - private scenes bursting into mass activity; Dreyeresque austerity alternating with Wellesian baroque; a dynamic jazz score merging into Albinoni's tragic, apocalyptic, funereal Adagio.
Both readings aren't exclusive: they play off each other. Creating an appropriately Kafkaesque spiral of terror, the climactic scene - a classic Wellesian stand-off between K. and the Advocate (seemingly on his side, but really a playful collaborator), completes the dissolution of the individual. They are shown to be indistinguishable, mere shadows of men. I do not say that we fail to sympathise with K. - his light IS harrowing, but though his closing laugh can be interpreted as an admission of the Absurdity of the universe, it's a world made in his image.
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