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The Trial, of course, can be interpreted in many different ways, as a
personal statement against the struggle of man to hold his own against the
forces of the universe, or perhaps as an attack on the inhumane bureaucracy
inherent in authoritarian government. `Kafka's novels,' says genre critic
Franz Rottensteiner, `move in a circle, and their helpless heroes are caught
in the fabric of a world that is ever elusive to them. They are mere cogs in
a senseless social machine.' However you interpret it, The Trial is not easy
to forget and seems more relevant today than ever. Translating it to film is
This version has all the stuff that the Welles version lacks -- superior performances, an expensive production beautifully photographed in Prague, an outstanding screenplay by Harold Pinter, and a faithful, almost literal, adherence to Kafka's novel. The only thing missing is wit, style, a spark of life, and creative energy. With Welles version, the film ends with a powerful impact; this one ends with a resounding thud.
Kyle MacLachan, who plays Joseph K. in this version, is best known for his performances as agent Cooper in the TV and movie versions of Twin Peaks. I believe he is a better actor than Anthony Perkins; however, I found his performance to be so emotionally distant that I did not care a whit about happened to him. Supporting performances are outstanding, especially Jason Robards as the Advocate and Anthony Hopkins as the prison chaplain. In spite of my considerable esteem for Mr. Pinter, this film is flat and lifeless and the experience is little different than listening to an audiotape of the novel.
Filmed in Prague, this film has some of the best Old World urban scenery
ever put on film. "Amadeus" came to mind.
The screenplay follows Kafka's novel well in text and feel. Well enough, if fact, that reading the novel will offer little more than this film's relating of the story of Joseph K. and his trial. And that is the best that a film version of a novel can possibly hope for.
I am a major fan of any of Franz Kafka's literature. In fact I read
everything ever written by Kafka who is the most unique writer in any
So I was very eager to see The Trial brought to the screen.
And I can tell you from this film fan's perspective, this movie was the real deal. Filmed in Kafka's home city of Prague, it shows the world that Kafka knew.
Exploring the life and spiraling downfall of Josef K., a young bank executive, it shows a nightmarish world in which a man is destroyed slowly and gradually.
It is a timeless story about being entrapped in a horrible bureaucracy in which there is no escape.
Josef K is visited by two roguish officers of the court and summoned to a bizarre court. The court comes to regular meetings and he is summoned throughout the story. He goes through the entire proceedings not knowing even what crimes he is being charge with.
The bizarre "court" is a cavernous building where families, children, adulterous spouses and bullying thugs inhabit. Everyone inside seems to have a function yet we never see the judges or those who are responsible for the fate of the story's protagonist.
In the meantime he continues to live is normal, dull life.
But the court continues to rule his life. And the harder he fights the court the more deeply entrenched he becomes.
Students of Kafka's literature will recognize the familiar themes: man against an inhumane bureaucracy, the eminant demise of man, the demise of freedom at the expense of rules and regulations, the literal use of metaphores and the ultimate doom of all humanity.
Its not your average story but for those who are seeking something different I would heartily recommend it.
When a novel is to be translated to the silver screen, the director will
immediately face a dilemma. How will he approach the translation? Will he
try to be as faithful to the original piece of work as possible, avoid to
give his own interpretation of the novel, not risking the wrath of devoted
Or will he try to see to what he believes to be the true spirit of the work, and express it in a new way? After all, books and films are different medias and thinking of how much is lost without the author's special language and distinct style - for an example -, shouldn't a director try to make up for that loss by adding something unique for film?
I would go for the latter. Otherwise your filmversion of an essential piece of literary work will be just that: a version of an essential book, not an essential film in itself.
Of course this can cause a lot of controversy, and there's no doubt that some directors have managed to completely ruin an excellent book when trying to make 'their own' version of it. BUT, look for an example at 'A Clockwork Orange'. Burgess intricate play with language and manipulation of the reader - slowly taking him into Alex's world and way of thinking - simply will not be translated into film. So instead Kubrick used the unique opportunities of film and managed to combine the use of audio and vision to stunning effects. Kubrick managed to make something own out of it, no question about it.
And that's what I feel is missing in 'The Trial'. Yes, it is a perfectly well-done job. I couldn't think of a more suitable actor for Josef K than Kyle 'Agent Dale Cooper' MacLachlan: that's EXACTLY the way I envisioned him when reading the novel! Also the settings in Prague provides the movie with beautiful and suitable backgrounds. Though some scenes, for lengths sake, has been cut short it also stays true to the events in the novel and manages to catch some of the atmosphere in the novel.
The movie is carried through very competent, the actors are talented and there's a a nice 'Godfather'-esque grainish color on top of it all. No, this isn't a bad movie. On the contrary!
But why shouldn't I rather read on the novel myself? Because what is really comes down to is this: if a translation from one media to another is to be successful, it can never be just a translation. It has to stand on it's own legs.
And that's where this film fails. We aren't offered any new perspectives or different ideas on Josef K and his torments. Quite simply, it's an enjoyable watch but probably holds appeal mostly to those who don't have the time or interest to read the novel instead.
Beautiful film, subtle exploration of Kafka's masterpiece nuances,
slices of novel's atmosphere but only an ordinary adaptation.
In fact, a film about one of Franz Kafka's texts are an Utopian gesture. The sense of pages, the shadows of characters, the angst, fear or illusions, the magnificent style of one of best writers are crushed by vision of any director or art of actor. And the images are pieces of cold beauty without soul or honesty.
For "The Trial" adaptation is always present a trap: the image of Joseph K. as avatar of Kafka. Franz Kafka is only a Kakania's citizen, civil servant in a large empire, with small ambitions and desires, toy of his doubts and hesitations, dreads and lures.
Kyle MacLachlan is a correct interpret of character but, the fundamental error is the ambition to be a perfect Joseph K.. So, his acting is barren and empty.
Alfred Molina as Titorelli is charming but the interpretation of character is exercise of one type incarnation, the same in many nuances. Same situation for great Jason Robards.
The important virtue of film is the presence of Anthony Hopkins and the colors, shadows, illusions and accents gives to parable. It is not example of brilliant art but the science of words sense description. The words- medusa, words- ash, words- sand, words- velvet. In this small text is the crux of novel and film.
A splendid film, a acceptable adaptation.
To anyone that has taken time to read it or any small part of it, Kafka's body of work does not readily lend itself to film adaptation. His fiction is savagely personal, and so the vast majority plays out in the minds of the central characters rather than through action or dialogue. And when there is dialogue, it is subtly understated, absurdly simplistic, powerful and surreal. His novels were his nightmares, and in writing they became our nightmares, imagining his quiet and steady suffocation and contemplating our own. Committing true horror to film is difficult by any standards, and this film fails outright.
It lacks the brutal eeriness that Kafka relates. It lacks the finesse of Kafka's words. It lacks the expressive thought that is instrumental in deciphering his protagonist. It lacks all but Kafka's story (and his name), and this story is really too simple. The nuances of the language never emerge and any lingering boldness is soon lost in boredom. To translate Kafka into English requires passion and true understanding; to translate Kafka to another medium requires nothing less than inspiration, and this director and his cast lack it entirely.
If you want a well-realized, true-to-Kafka film, find American animator Caroline Leaf's "The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa" or Orson Welles' adaptation of this same novel, or even Rudolph Noelte's 1971 version of "The Castle."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Pinter's Kafka; 'The Trial'. Brilliant film, I think. Lovely, knowing
Prague, to see it as the backdrop. Why bother with derivative stuff
like 'Waiting for Godot', a pathetic attempt to infuse the tragedy with
facile humour. Hopkins is perfectly cast, as is the castle at Prague.
Kafka sees the world, the world of power and corruption so clearly, but
fails to see the redemption Epicurus and Ecclesiastes did.
Perfect atmosphere, cinematography and acting. The film is a delight.
To short to be properly Kafkaesque, but who would watch it if it were long enough? It avoids the problems of too literary a take that the film of Finnegan's Wake makes.
We want to shout, almost all the way through, not; 'Look behind you!', but 'What's the Charge?'
This is not a film for the young. It lacks the obvious ennui that a teenager would seek, and find, from the book. It, rather, I think, shows an adult understanding of our helplessness.
We can love the void, or hate it, but we can't deny that it is there. If we can, unlike the Kafka's anti-hero, refuse to take it all at face value, or, more importantly, at the apparently deep, skull-level value the bureaucrats would wish us to believe are real, then we can live.
I see Kafka as, despite himself, deeply life-affirming. The Castle, Trail, or Plague we see is only an illusion. As the gatekeeper says, the door is open and is only there, specially, for us, or for us to ignore.
I'm delighted to have ignored the doors, the gatekeepers and the controllers that would have had me imprisoned in my own mind. It's good and healthy to see them here for what substantial obstacles the can be if you don't ignore them.
I only wish I had seen this one before the great, claustrophobic masterpiece by Orson Welles. A very good adaptation, and very true to Kafka's story. Some of the issues of human rights seem very fresh in the wake of heightened security stemming from 9/11. Good movie for a dark, lonely night.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's not easy to transpose Kafka to the screen. And he was,
unexpectedly, a damned hard read in German class too. I dare anyone to
make a movie about a man being refused entrance through a gate that was
built solely for him to enter. What I mean is, much of what goes on
depends on trivial, humdrum matters that are slightly cockeyed. Okay, a
man turns into a giant dung beetle. What do I do now, Ma? In this very
good adaptation of "The Trial" -- better than Orson Welles' and Anthony
Perkins' -- that note of things being off kilter is effectively
The production has an oneiristic quality in which we are Kyle MacLachlen, the only person who plays it straight, indignant at being arrested by a couple of clowns who won't identify themselves or tell him what the charge against him is. But instead of taking MacLachlan to "the Depot", they let him spend the day working at his job in the bank, then return to his apartment at night.
He asks his landlady, Juliet Stevenson in a peerless performance, to be his "advisor" since he needs someone to help him face whatever trouble he's supposed to be in. She smiles coyly, looks away from him, and acts thoroughly distracted -- exactly as figures do in a dream when you're trying to get their attention. It's not that easy to paint everyday interaction that preposterous without going overboard. Luis Bunuel managed it in one dream sequence in "Los Olvidados" when a mother turns to her child with a great big grin and offers him a slab of raw, dripping meat. And a production team seemed to fall into it almost by accident in the cheap horror movie, "Carnival of Souls."
Portentous things happen. Strangers want to take you away for no reason. People in other rooms are listening to you. The air reeks with paranoia. The very air you breathe is ominous. If Kafka were alive today, he could write the same novel, slipping only the clothes and furnishings out of Prague in the 1920s.
Nobody can claim the movie sticks closely to Kafka's novel. It's all chopped up into inchoate bits and pieces, like MacLachlan at the finish. Beautiful, buxom women keep throwing themselves at MacLachlan's feet and begging him, "Kiss me. Make love to me." This happens to me all the time but I don't recall its happening to Joseph K.
A bit of gratuitous nudity might have helped because in its second act the movie runs headlong into a problem often encountered by absurd stories. If anything can happen, how can you build a dramatic structure out of it? What carries the viewer along? Certainly it's not Joseph K's character. He's no wimp, so it's hard to feel he's being humiliated. He's defiant, demanding, and insulting, not an inconvenient dung beetle. The movie begins with his arrest and ends with his pointless execution. I can't remember his ever asking what he's being charged with. He talks to several people along the way but they respond with gibberish.
That doesn't detract from the performances, which are just fine on everyone's part. Two cameos stand out. Jason Robards is a frail but sprightly lawyer. Anthony Hopkins appears in one scene as the prison chaplain who relates the parable of the man waiting forever before the gate of "the law." Hopkins is simply magnetic. Nobody else could have told that simple, paradoxical tale so grippingly.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is by far the most wired,bizarre and strange movie I have ever seen, during the movie I convinced that it was some sort of dream sequence and the protagonist will wake up at some point and unlike the most of the viewers I haven't read the novel it is based on,so to me whole movie seemed illogical,like a dream where some bits and pieces make some sense but otherwise its just jumbled and random, I even thought that it might turn out to be a psychological thriller and towards the end I'll see the main character sitting in a mental asylum,the film would've made much more sense then,at least to me, I watched the movie because of Anthony Hopkins as I am a big fan of his but I was sad to see him only towards the end of the movie and that too only for 5-6 minutes,to me this whole movie seemed metaphorical,as if its meant to show the confusion one goes through after getting entangled with legal matters or the corruption which runs rampant in the bureaucracy,anyways before watching the movie I thought that Anthony Hopkins must have been playing the role of an Advocate who is defending a man who has been charged with a crime but he have not been told what his crime is and,boy was i wrong.
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