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The Trial (1962).

February 20, 2009

The Scoop:
Trying to adapt Franz Kafka for the screen is pretty much a losing proposition from the get-go, so Orson Welles, Hollywood’s fabled fallen boy wonder, should get extra genius points for even attempting it.

But what results from his version of “The Trial” is a fairly faithful depiction of the physical action of the novel, without much of the overarching existential dread that made it a masterpiece of modern literature.

Well past his physical prime, Welles turned the starring role of Joseph K. over to the underrated Anthony Perkins, who carries the film with another fine performance. Welles instead plays The Advocate, while the rest of the great cast includes Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider and Akim Tamiroff.

By this point, Welles’ glory days were long behind him and it was only by overcoming the greatest resistance that he was able to make any movies at all. So, it is something of a miracle that this film even got made in the first place. Because of that, the film’s low budget is quite obvious, and Welles seems to be trying to overcompensate by presenting a grand directorial “vision” that winds up overreaching in spots. But despite its flaws, “The Trial” is still a worthy addition to the Welles canon, and proof that he had more cinematic genius in him than just “Citizen Kane” or “Touch of Evil.”

Best Line:
“Yes, that’s the conspiracy: to persuade us all that the whole world is crazy, formless, meaningless, absurd. That’s the dirty game. So I’ve lost my case. What of it? You, you’re losing too. It’s all lost, lost. So what? Does that sentence the entire universe to lunacy?”

Side Note:
Welles changed the ending to one in which K. does not get killed, because he thought a scene of a Jew being killed would be too reminiscent of the Holocaust.

Companion Viewing:
“Touch of Evil” (1959).

Kafka at the Movies.
Combustible Celluloid.

Take a Look:
The trailer:

The typically Wellesian opening sequence:

The court sequence:

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