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True to Kafka
caelx6 December 1999
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.
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Lifeless and Academic
Howard Schumann25 November 2002
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 another story.

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.
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A faithful translation to the screen: fails to give new perspectives to the work though.
Per_Klingberg28 April 2003
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 readers?

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.

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Faithful to the novel
EnemyOfTheState25 October 2005
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 language.

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.
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Splendid film, acceptable adaptation
Armand9 May 2007
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.
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Kafka is
fustbariclation7 October 2009
Warning: 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.
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A pallid adaptation
stanman86861 May 2006
Very dull.

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."
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Nice work, great cast, but still not as good as the Welles version.
robinatorjj23 November 2001
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.
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Brilliant rendition
JAMES NICHOLSON22 September 2010
Terrific version of this story - moves more smoothly and lacks some of the dream like Brectian look of Welles version. Still, McLaughlin is excellent as a confident, terrified and confused man who's life is inexplicably changed when he his charged in an unknown place, for an unknown crime. Hopkins and Robards as the Priest and legal counsel are in excellent form. Set during the time period when Kafka was alive to give the film a sense of place, I strongly recommend this version of the story for someone who wants a little more scenery and a sense that Josef lives somewhere instead of just in some strange version of a modern town.
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Quite good but a bit lacking in enthusiasm
TomParr29 November 2002
This film was OK. The plot went along happily enough, but I thought things were a bit vague as to K's state of mind during the film and the ending seemed anticlimatical. I have not read the book and perhaps this is how it was supposed to be. The silliest thing I noticed about this film is that Anthony Hopkins took up the whole of my DVD cover and then only appeared for around 10 minutes of the about 2 hour film. I find this rather odd and amusing. Otherwise, I thought the film was well acted and had a lovely setting. 6/10
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Kafka Should See Us Today.
Robert J. Maxwell20 December 2014
Warning: 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 captured.

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.
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what in gods name did I watch ?
Nakul Dev24 October 2014
Warning: 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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Arrested and prosecuted but for what, he does not know...
Amityville1529 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
A man awakens to be told that he has been arrested, however he is not told why he has been arrested and he is aloud to do everyday things like go to the bank even though he is due to stand in court. He must find out why he stood trial and how he can escape his sentence.

This film starred: Kyle Maclachlan, Anthony Hopkins & Alfred Molina.

The Trial is a boring, slow and very dull movie, I was intrigued by this movie because of it's tagline and the fact that Anthony Hopkins was in it. You can understand my disappointment when I found out that he was only in the film for 10 minutes. However I found out that Trigger from Only Fools and Horses was in, however he was only in it for a couple of minutes. Not recommended, very slow paced and very boring.

*/***** Very poor.
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Awful awful remake
lgarretti0493 February 2010
The original Orson Welles film "The Trial" is a brilliant dark and brooding masterpiece with some of the greatest cinematography of all time.

This film is the exact opposite.

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 remain free and go to work. But despite the strange nature of his arrest, Joseph soon learns that his trial, however odd, is very real, and tries desperately to spare himself from the court's judgement.

Shot by a director whose total experience was in TV, this remake comes across as lame made-for-TV rip off of the Welles original.

Give this a miss and check out the 1962 classic instead.
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A case of faithful not always being a good thing
TheLittleSongbird10 June 2017
The book is marvellous and the 1963 Orson Welles film is every bit as good, even if less faithful than this version from 1993. 'The Trial' does follow the book closely in detail, but what makes the book and the previous film so powerful is lost in translation in an adaptation that is perhaps somewhat too faithful.

By all means, 'The Trial' is not irredeemable. It looks great, being very beautifully photographed and with settings that are both attractive and atmospheric. It's sensitively scored too, without being too intrusive or low-key. There are also a few good performances, Anthony Hopkins steals the film (even if his screen time is rather brief), Juliet Stevenson is wonderfully authoritative and Jason Robards gives energy.

However, Kyle MacLachlan is very bland, the character is not very interesting here but MacLachlan is lacking in screen presence and charisma. The rest of the cast don't stand out.

Other big problems are some really leaden pacing that fails to give the film much life and a story that never ignites fire, lacking the crucial darkness, emotional power (emotionally 'The Trial' is incredibly distant) and is too academic, disjointed and not always having cohesion. The script is also dull, awkward and heavy handed. The direction is too staid.

In conclusion while following the book closely it's a case that's not really a good thing and it just feels bland. 3/10 Bethany Cox
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Very hard to follow, emotionally distant
Tanner McCoon15 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Like multiple critic reviews of this film, I had a very hard time feeling anything for Joseph K. Mostly, in my opinion, because I felt like even he was in on parts of the plot that I wasn't privy to. The story was always bouncing from one character to the next and the dialogue was so abstract that I had a very hard time even understanding what was going on up even to the ending.

One thing that i was struck by, was the atmosphere. The film was surreal without being too over-the-top. I felt like I was watching a horrible dream unfold where no one was sure whether or not what was happening was actually real.

Bottom line, I'd recommend this film to people who aren't into the Hollywood blockbusters, but rather like watching a film for the underlying themes. There is simply so little in this film that holds your attention (besides random sensual scenes), that most people including myself really won't find the film worth watching.

One last thing, don't get too excited about Anthony Hopkins in this film. He has a great performance for about 10 minutes near the end of the movie and that's it.
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