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The Trial (1962)

Le procès (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, Mystery, Thriller | 22 December 1962 (France)
An unassuming office worker is arrested and stands trial, but he is never made aware of his charges.


Orson Welles


Pierre Cholot (adaptation), Franz Kafka (based on the novel by) | 1 more credit »
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Don Quixote is an unfinished film project produced, written and directed by Orson Welles. Principal photography took place between 1957 and 1969. Test footage was filmed as early as 1955, ... See full summary »

Director: Orson Welles
Stars: Oja Kodar, Patty McCormack, Pepe Mediavilla


Cast overview, first billed only:
Anthony Perkins ... Josef K.
Arnoldo Foà ... Inspector A
Jess Hahn ... Second Assistant Inspector
Billy Kearns Billy Kearns ... First Assistant Inspector (as William Kearns)
Madeleine Robinson ... Mrs. Grubach
Jeanne Moreau ... Marika Burstner
Maurice Teynac Maurice Teynac ... Deputy Manager
Naydra Shore Naydra Shore ... Irmie
Suzanne Flon ... Miss Pittl
Raoul Delfosse Raoul Delfosse ... Policeman
Jean-Claude Rémoleux Jean-Claude Rémoleux ... Policeman
Max Buchsbaum Max Buchsbaum ... Examining Magistrate
Carl Studer Carl Studer ... Man in Leather (as Karl Studer)
Max Haufler Max Haufler ... Uncle Max
Romy Schneider ... Leni


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 <richts@informatik.rwth-aachen.de>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A Film of Enormous Visual Panache! See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »

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France | West Germany | Italy



Release Date:

22 December 1962 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

The Trial See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (TV)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Optiphone) (source format)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Original literary work: "Der Prozess", novel by Franz Kafka, published by Die Schmiede, Berlin, 1925, 411 pages. 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 »


[first lines]
Narrator: 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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Crazy Credits

The end cast credits are read over by Orson Welles without titles See more »

Alternate Versions

In 1984, the Desilu studios acquired The Trial and re-edited it prior to its release on American TV. See more »


Featured in Searching for Orson (2006) See more »


Adagio d'Albinoni, À L'Orgue Baroque
Music by Tomaso Albinoni (T.Albinoni)
Arranged for organ by Jean Ledrut
Interprété par Tommy Desserre
Publisher: S.l. : Philips, 1962.
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User Reviews

"The Logic Of A Dream"
29 December 1999 | by stryker-5See all my reviews

Franz Kafka was a citizen of the moribund Austro-Hungarian Empire, a dead culture in which mere administration had replaced government. Aware that its civilisation was decaying, the Austrian ruling class of Kafka's day could summon up no vitality or creativity, and devoted itself to suppressing 'The Revolution'. A state with thirteen languages and twice that number of separatist movements spent all its time trying to retard its own centrifugal forces. Austria-Hungary in these final decades was a honeyless hive in which minor officials and secret policemen busied themselves, striving feverishly to preserve the unpreservable. Kafka's dark novels capture the ugly mood of a dying political system whose instincts were authoritarian and whose inefficiency sapped all hope of reform.

In 1962, Welles was struggling through his locust years. Having long since alienated himself from Hollywood's money, he was living a vagabond life in Europe, flitting back and forth across the continent to scrape funds together, plan stage productions which hardly ever came to fruition, and sleepwalk through a dozen cameo roles in other people's films. The critical and financial catastrophe of 'Chimes' was hanging over him like a pall, and he had far too many distractions - squabbles with his Irish partners, tax bills in London and potentially ruinous law suits to stave off. With all this to contend with, he was still sporadically shooting portions of "Don Quixote" in Spain, a stuttering project that was by now in its sixth year of filming. Welles was desperately short of money, and as his biographer Higham puts it, "he could manage almost anything except austerity".

A harmless, inconsequential clerk wakes up one morning to find himself accused of something (he never discovers what). Secret policemen enter his bedroom and subject him to a frightening interrogation in which every answer provokes a new line of questioning. This is psychological torture, the mind's innate sense of justice constantly probing for some higher reference-point, some appeal to fairness, when in fact none exists. Josef K returns repeatedly to the obvious question, "But what have I done?" But there are no rules of justice here, no recourse to an autonomous code of law. "You have the unmitigated gall to pretend you don't know?"

A cry of anguish from the individual who finds himself overwhelmed by soulless bureaucracy, "The Trial" is a deeply personal statement by Welles, and as Higham puts it, "a symbol, if there ever was one, of his own career". Welles had been the enfant terrible whose erratic genius had alienated the big Hollywood studios. Cut off from the big money, he was to spend the subsequent forty years globetrotting aimlessly, picking up work as best he could.

Autobiographical elements of Kafka's own life, contained in "The Trial", are given prominence in the film. Austria-Hungary launched World War One in the same year that Kafka began work on the novel. Ironically, the limited war against Bosnia, intended to restore Austria's international credibility, turned into a conflagration bigger and more horrific than anything previously experienced on earth, and set in train the global violence which was to characterise the twentieth century. It also destroyed Austria-Hungary. Welles closes this story of 1914 with an image of nuclear catastrophe, stressing the oneness of the century's horror. Kafka was bullied by his father, and reference is made in the course of the film to K's sense of filial guilt. The office is depressing and demeaning, echoing Kafka's own experiences as a clerk in a bloated bureaucracy.

The State is remorseless and pitiless, grinding down and perverting even the strongest of human bonds, those of familial and sexual love. K is forced to reject his little cousin Irmie (Maydra Shore), who has to remain 'outside'. Later, an allegation of sexual impropriety concerning Irmie arises. Any magnanimity towards another is interpreted by the authorities as a denunciation. The torture scenes involving the secret policemen are the most disturbing part of the film, both because K realises how his own protests have borne poisoinous fruit, and because of the grinning obsequiousness of the victims. The State turns its problems into spineless curs who acquiesce in their own degradation.

Not only does K find himself becoming an accuser: he even assumes the role of interrogator, questioning Bloch and the Defendants. Anyone who is not a keyholder within the pitiless apparatus of The State cannot help but take on its deadly pallor. Keys are important. Leni, the Court Guard and Zitorelli are empowered through possessing keys. They are a corrupt priesthood in this cult of political disease.

Kafka's experiences with women were deeply ambivalent. He had many intense relationships in his life, none of which proved satisfactory. His book treats women as both temptresses and objects of loathing. Welles follows this line, the women being desirable guide-figures and also deformed monstrosities. The trunk-carrier, Lena and the hunchback girl all have bodily malformations.

Welles shot most of the film in Zagreb, capturing strikingly the two clashing styles of architecture of Mittel-Europa, overblown ugly Habsburg baroque and drab communist functionalism. It is as if the Prague of Mozart cannot help but decay into the Prague of Krushchev. "Ostensibly free" is the best K can hope for, and 'ostensibly individual' is our optimum condition, as the shadows of the Stalinist apartment blocks crowd in on us.

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