The Trial Screen 14 articles

The Trial

1962

The Trial Poster
  • In its mapping of castration anxiety and sexual guilt, the film is brilliantly bleak and occasionally hilarious. But Welles is less successful handling the prophetic political and social allegory embedded in the novel... Welles is overwhelmed by his best ambitions. Nevertheless, The Trial is splendid to look at and teeming with ideas about the individual, society, and of course, film itself.

  • The man isn’t necessarily absent. The care with which Welles develops the décor might suggest a dehumanization of his art. This is to accuse the artist of a fault that the universe is responsible for. Welles is simply testifying to a loss of integrity in the modern man. The décor, a parallel physical universe to the mental universe of the hero, is the frame of his existence and of his evolution, and is always seen in function of K.

  • [The Trial] is not Welles' best film, it may not even be his most ambitious. But it is, for anyone curious about the undiscovered territory in Welles' body of work, his most touching film. Not for any of its onscreen content - does unmitigated fatalism make you misty? It's one of the rare occasions Welles lets his guard down enough to allow a number of stylistic and philosophical urges to coalesce into a cryptic essay on the nightmare of the American workplace.

  • The Trial remains, for me, among the most pleasurable of Welles’ films, perhaps because it is one of the few that can be seen, today, in its original form. The classic expressionist nightmare is given an effective center by Anthony Perkins, an unorthodox Welles hero but a perfect victim for the relentless machine that pursues K.

  • Far less respectful of Franz Kafka than the Harold Pinter/Kyle MacLachlen TV movie embalming of the same novel, this may be the best film Welles shot outside America, transforming the grim, concrete exteriors of Zagreb and the gothic corners of Paris into a haunted modern city seductive and menacing enough even to give Kafka the creeps.

  • The story meanders and careens in different directions and the pacing changes almost scene by scene. One can assume that nearly all of this is intentional – though budget limitations and Welles’ vagabond lifestyle likely played a part – and, while not all of it works, it is fascinating to observe a filmmaker who, twenty years into his career, is more than willing to test the capacity of the audience to tolerate – and perhaps even embrace – such artful perversions of the basic language of cinema.

  • The sheer physical and aesthetic variety of the sets allows for a film that is not dominated by a sense of mounting claustrophobia but, instead, moves through every register of stress, from cagey anxiety to distracted exhaustion. This haphazard variety in emotional tone makes THE TRIAL a veritable adaptation of the novel rather than just a “Kafkaesque” homage, as does Welles' occasional willingness to find humor in Kafka's story.

  • The Trial has a sense of hallucinatory horror while confronting the corruptions and self-deceptions of the contemporary world that comes even closer to Welles’ previous feature and final Hollywood studio production, Touch of Evil (1958) — recalled here in both the humiliations undergone by Akim Tamiroff’s character and in the near-replication of the earlier film’s Hall of Records in a contemporary library of file cabinets (presided over by Paola Mori, Welles’ wife).

  • At times a confounding film, Orson Welles' loose adaptation offers an unsettling and haunting expression of the modern experience. By putting K--and by extension the audience--into byzantine governmental systems, nightmarish and anonymous spaces, and contact with people sometimes better described as moving bodies, Welles "confronts the corruptions and self-deceptions of the contemporary world."

  • The emotional tenor of the film, which in its sustained anxiety is truly singular, is defined more by Welles’s aesthetic predilections than by words lifted from the page, and it is for this reason that Welles’s The Trial is very much recognizably its own.

  • Welles’s visual compositions, with their sets of a jaw-dropping grandeur, burst through the screen to evoke an oppressively incomprehensible system of edicts and constraints. And who better to reveal the system’s evil genius than Welles, the golden boy turned Hollywood martyr? He plays the sybaritic attorney as, in effect, an imperious yet insecure director whose dialogue seems made for a megaphone, and turns Josef K. into a rebellious actor who defies the machine and needs to learn his lesson.

  • The Trial unfolds like sleeping in reverse; K.’s straitlacedness and seemingly guilty conscience would seem more logical as a labyrinthine nightmare. In the face of accusation, wherever it stems from, K. remains chained to his ideals; he is a solipsist in a bureaucracy gone mad. It took four major European cities for Welles to complete his version of Kafka’s unfinished novel, a doggedly lunatic odyssey.

  • Kafka’s symbolic novel of bureaucracy, law, and guilt captured something universal about the human condition. Welles literally explodes that to create a parable of the twentieth century, one that both embraces and destroys the Cult of the Individual.

  • The most intense and telling moment of the film comes when Joseph K finds himself in a small closet where two men (detectives he had lodged a complaint about) are being humiliated and beaten, their frightened faces intermittently illuminated by a swinging overhead lamp. In the closet, this small, hidden space, the threat of violence behind the meaningless absurdity of the bureaucratic monstrosity lives—the engine of fear which drives the system's motor of conformity and hopelessness.

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