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THE TRIAL

Director: ORSON WELLES

FRANCE-ITALY-W. GERMANY • 1962 • BLACK AND WHITE • 35MM • 120 MIN


Accused of an unspecified crime, Josef K. (Anthony Perkins) awakens one morning into a nightmare of police harassment and bureaucratic madness. The film’s dazzling soundtrack distortions and spatial manipulations correspond to Kafka’s concept of the law as a labyrinthine maze designed to disorientate anyone caught in its web.

Describing The Trial as about ‘the oppression of the individual in modern society’, Welles made it with a degree of artistic control he had not enjoyed since Citizen Kane. The result is distinctly controversial. To the dismay of literary purists, Welles takes liberties with the text, altering narrative structure and characterisation, and lightening the tone: it sometimes seems more Lewis Carroll than Franz Kafka. Conversely, François Truffaut thought there was a mismatch between auteur and material: unlike Kafka, he thought, Welles’ best films are about people who are bigger than life, not smaller. But the key Wellesian themes — abuse of power, the innocent abroad in a corrupt world — are all there; the imagery of paranoia and urban depersonalisation is extraordinary; and the cast (Perkins, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Akim Tamiroff) often superb.

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