The Trial (1962)

The Trial
Directed by Orson Welles
Written by Orson Welles; adapted by Pierre Cholot from the novel by Franz Kafka
1962/France/West Germany/Italy
Paris-Europa Productions/Hisa-Film/Finaciaria Cinematografica Italia
First viewing/Netflix rental

Hastler: Do you think you can persuade the court that you’re not responsible by reason of lunacy?

Joseph K.: I think that’s what the court wants me to believe. 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?

How did I wait so long to see one of Orson Welles’ best movies and one of Anthony Perkins’ great performances?

The “plot” takes the shape and logic of a nightmare.  As the movie begins, detectives burst into Joseph K’s (Perkins) room and arrest him.  They refuse to reveal the charges.  K spends the rest of the film trying to discover what he is supposedly guilty of and to defend himself against a fathomless system seemingly bent on convicting – perhaps killing – him.

Along the way K. encounters a number of women, many of whom seem ready to bed him, but none of whom offer any comfort.  The first of these is K’s boarding house neighbor played by Jeanne Moreau.  Eventually K. finds himself a defense attorney named Hastler (Welles).   But his advocate seems to be as out to get him as his prosecutors.

This is a gorgeous film and Perkins is brilliant in it.  I think Welles captures Kafka’s story as well as anyone could have.  It is both a condemnation of the legal system and a despairing reflection on man’s life here below.  Recommended.