DIRECTOR: STEVEN SODERBERGH
COUNTRY: ENGLISH 1991
MUSIC: CLIFF MARTINEZ
CAST: Jeremy Irons, Theresa Russell, Joel Grey, Ian Holm, Alec Guiness.
SUPER FEATURES: This cast DEFINITELY knows what Kafka is about ... but a film?
This film is only as good as your reading was in your school's English classes.
If you read a few of Kafka's short stories, you will like the blend in this film. If you didn't, chances are that this film will go over your head and you will not appreciate the famous literary tradition which the writer developed, because this film is extremely faithful to the way he wrote. Frans Kafka, is not easy reading, and neither is it a Sunday pleasure and cup of tea, terrace reading. It is all too often, much more serious, with implications which lean towards the existentialist movement in literature in the late 40's, 50's and early 60's. By the time the sixties arrive, the shadows of the war were diminishing, and the arts, in general, took an up swing in feeling and attitudes.The existentialists, having made their point through Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre, all of a sudden were alive with a group of weird, unusual, and clever writers. And what was originally known as 'new wave' cinema, may have been the (Godard and Truffaut) reason why it started in the first place. The negative and often helpless attitudes with overtones of the decline of the civilization of the industrial age, all of a sudden was alive. The social rules and ways has dehumanized people....and Kafka's contempt is for the fact that people can't do much to change it any more ... and often have to die knowing the truth, but having to admit the falsities, just in order to survive. The sixties were the first rebirth of 'life' since the war that destroyed so much in Europe.....and Franz Kafka, could very well have predicted it and hoped for in his writing, were it not for a friend who did not do what he was told.
This highly autobiographical film, starts with the young Kafka doing his job as an insurance clerk, where as time goes by his fear of impropriety and dishonesty is discovered to be true by his mind (his perception already had it figured out), but the whole thing is undermined by his inability to clarify his relationship with his father and eventually himself, and those he cared for, or cared for him. There were fears which suggested he was unable to cope with the fact he knew what some of the outcomes were, not realizing that he could have a say in how to change that outcome.
As he gets older, and notices his 'friends' happen to be the unusual sort of people, gathered for political activities against the society they despise, with whom he really does not wish to be involved, but with whom he happens to share some points of view. Eventually it makes him a hero of sorts, because he has the ability to succeed in destroying a part of the system where all the other revolutionaries have failed. However to himself, he still is a personal failure, and with this he fails himself. His weak health eventually fells him.
The best part of this film is actually the acting showcase put on by the likes of Joel Grey, Alec Guiness, Ian Holm, and Theresa Russell, who probably couldn't resist a chance to work out a literary event. And although Theresa comes off a bit overly emotional at times, and for good reason, she is not as strong as the others, but manages to hold her own, as the ill fated Gabriella. And the film suggests that it is her fall that weakens his own quest for self discovery. The girl who loves him is a nice girl, but he does not show any inclination to doing anything about it,
and she is too shy to do anything about it. Gabriella has a stronger appeal, if not domineering, which may appeal to the younger Kafka. And she is not immature, and young by any means, where the other girl appears really naive, and incapable of understanding or being a satisfactory partner on an intelectual level, which might be a requirement for Kafka.
Joel Grey as the co worker is very good, and funny, if not obnoxious. Alec Guiness as his boss is really smooth, as usual, in anything he does. And Ian Holm stands out as the intelectual evil man, who is still exercising the atrocities of the past war, obviously something which in Kafka's mind, must be done away with, and buried away.
GOOD FOR THE LITERARY MINDED PEOPLE.
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