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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>
Several characters in this film have the same names as characters in Kafka's books, but are quite different otherwise - for example, the girl played by Theresa Russell is surnamed "Rossman", the name of the 16-year-old hero of "Amerika", whilst the police inspector is called "Grubach", the name of Joseph K.'s landlady in "The Trial". See more »
Much like David Cronenberg's 'Naked Lunch', 'Kafka' attempts to merge a biographical film and a literary adaptation, by combining elements from Franz Kafka's notoriously unfilmable books and stories with details from his real life. The thing is, where Steven Soderbergh's film is an admirable effort at filming Kafka's work, other films by more accomplished directors, made around the same time or several years earlier, managed to capture Kafka's spirit much more successfully without ever mentioning his name or the title of any of his works - Scorsese's 'After Hours', Woody Allen's 'Shadows and Fog', and to a lesser extent Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil' and Joel & Ethan Coen's 'Barton Fink' all achieve Kafka's unique feeling of futility and paranoia, as well as his pitch black sense of humor, while 'Kafka' resembles Kafka's writing mainly on the surface. This is the script's fault more than Soderbergh's, because the film looks great and delivers the dark, weird disconcerting feeling of Kafka's works, but by not delving into the philosophy behind them, by having almost no sense of humor, and by adhering to a pretty straightforward conspiracy plot, it remains little more than an aesthetic illustration of what a Kafka film might look like.
Despite a weak script, the film manages several memorable scenes, mainly thanks to terrific cinematography and a wonderful cast - Jeremy Irons, surprisingly, not being one of the film's standout performance. Rather, it's more minor characters played by Joel Grey, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Keith Allen, Simon McBurney and the great Alec Guinness in his last feature film role that stick to the viewer's mind, and for brief moments they can create the sense of paranoia, of surreal, nightmarish bureaucracy that is at the root of Kafka's writing; again, without the underlying philosophy, there's something unsatisfying about the overall result, and the story keeps distracting from the more interesting aspects. The film is, overall, interesting but frustrating; it's probably worth watching for Kafka fans, but it's not good enough to truly appease them. On the other hand, it may be too confusing for anyone who isn't familiar enough with his work.
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