Kafka, an insurance worker gets embroiled in an underground group after a co-worker is murdered. The underground group is responsible for bombings all over town, attempting to thwart a secret organization that controls the major events in society. He eventually penetrates the secret organization and must confront them. Written by
Ed Sutton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The above statement (coined by myself in an odd bout of pretension) refers to any film in which the central character inhabits a world in which he/she has no say in their own outcome; everything is pre-destined from the start. The actors therefore become mere marionettes, puppets controlled by the film-makers as a function to drive the plot, or the story that is unfolding in this world. With Kafka, we never really feel too much of a connection with the man himself (main character Kafka played by Jeremy Irons), but we are interested in his outcome because the subjective reality of his world draws us in. Sometimes this idea of the atmosphere of a film being what draws us in can go horribly wrong, it's not like say, Gone in 60 seconds (2000)... I'm not talking about a thick, glowing sludgy style of cinematography that has become all the more popular with younger film-makers. I am instead talking about the more classical style of film, composition, lighting and production design... Kafka has this in spades.
Steven Soderbergh is possibly the most talented director at work at the moment (that's debatable, but he is the most talented American director of the last fifteen years), his ability to effortlessly switch both genre and cinematic devise is a talent most directors lack, but Soderbergh went from the low-key drama of Sex, Lies & Videotape to the arty-thriller Kafka, and then moved onto the arty-low-key drama King of the Hill... Those where films that where brimming with ideas, mood and a strong independent visual sense, something his more recent films lack. With Kafka, Soderbergh applied the dark, noir-ish style of Wells and Bergman, with just the right blend of modern multi-media devises, colour is used to show the jarring contrast between the real-world (the subjective reality) to the horror's of the Castle. The skewed angles and the editing of certain scenes not only give the film a certain style, but help the audience identify between the different dreamscapes the film switches between, weather it be the world or Kafka's own imagination.
Much has been said in recent IMDB reviews about how the film is a betrayal of Kafka, having never read a word of Kafka I cannot comment, but I think people should allow Soderbergh and writer Lem Dobbs some artistic licensing. This is not an attempt to tell the life story of Kafka, it's more a "what if..." scenario, what if actual events dictated the writings of Kafka. The film blares the boundaries between fantasy and reality, and this is the point, this is why the film is set-up to conform to Subjective reality, we are being taken into Kafka's own world, a world he has absolutely no control over. Besides, most people are missing the point, and that is the film is a fantasy, not historical document, none of these would be literati's have mentioned the exemplary acting of all concerned.
Jeremy Irons is an actor I usually have little time for, in all honesty I have only seen a handful of his films and few of them left an impression, but here he is cast well, his stuffy British-ness and detached glare makes him an almost mythical figure, drifting around the city unsure of what will happen next. And the supporting cast is very credible, with roles for the legendary Alec Guinness, Ian Holm in a role not too dissimilar to the one he played in Gilliam's Brazil, Verhoeven regular Jeroen Krabbé puts in an appearance as one of Kafka's few allies and Armin Mueller-Stahl plays the dogged police inspector. The only annoyance amongst the cast is "Fat Les" himself Keith Allen as one half of a laughable (un)funny Laurel and Hardy-esque double act. Kafka is an unbelievably assured film from the (then) young Soderbergh that needs to be seen by more people besides Kafka fanatics who are only destroying the mystique of the film with their propaganda. This is a standout fantasy-thriller that has more style and intelligence than anything you'll find playing at you're local multiplex. 10/10
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