"It has been said that the logic of this story is the logic of a dream, of a nightmare."
- Orson Welles in the opening voice-over narration
"The confusion is impenetrable."
- the advocate (Orson Welles) to Block (Akim Tamiroff)
"Does that sentence the entire universe to lunacy'"
- Josef K. (Anthony Perkins) to Hastler
USA Today - 10/02/1998
"...A stylistic triumph over budgetary constraints that Welles once called his best film..." -- 4 out of 4 stars
Los Angeles Times - 12/16/1999
"...Brilliant....Visually, the film is Welles at his most dazzling....THE TRIAL is one of Welles' most challenging fables, ultimately profoundly moving, and one of his most fully realized films..."
Chicago Sun-Times - 02/25/2000
"...The world of this movie is like a nightmare....THE TRIAL is above all a visual achievement, an exuberant use of camera placement and movement and inventive lighting..."
Sight and Sound - 06/01/2001
"...[The film] is true to the book's grim comedy, its creeping sense of horror and grotesquerie and its political allegory..."
Premiere - 05/01/2006
"A true European art film: abstract, thought-provoking, poetic, stunning to behold."
Empire - 09/01/2007 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]his may be the best film Welles shot outside America....Overwhelmingly bleak, but exciting, riveting cinema."
Total Film - 10/01/2012 4 stars out of 5 -- "[A] spectacle of extraordinary images, Welles himself as the cigar-chomping Advocate."
Description by OLDIES.com:
Josef K. awakens one morning to find that he has been arrested by officers who refuse to disclose the charges. His nervous protests estrange his friends and neighbors who proceed to distance themselves while his every action seems to further indict him. Josef's attempts to discover his alleged crime pull him into a perplexing world full of secrets and lies. As the horror and brutality of this nightmare world becomes apparent to Josef, he attempts to fight back with argument, avoidance, disobedience and pleading - all to no avail. Orson Welles' vision of Kafka's world is faithfully disorienting, absurd and suspicious. From the vast, overwhelming courtroom to the wasteland of books and papers in the advocate's office, Josef K. is spectacularly dwarfed by the power and madness surrounding him. Accented by a revolutionary "pinscreen" prologue and remarkable performances by Anthony Perkins and Orson Welles, The Trial is a brilliant adaptation of Kafka's masterpiece.
THE TRIAL is Orson Welles's claustrophobic adaptation of Franz Kafka's surreal tale of fear and paranoia in a nameless society. Tinged with background jazz, filmed in shadowy black and white--mostly with direct light--THE TRIAL looks like a classic film noir, with angled close-ups and characters shrouded in mystery. Anthony Perkins stars as Josef K., a seemingly innocent young man who is arrested one morning for an unexplained crime by men who refuse to identify themselves. K., asserting his innocence, sets off on a bizarre series of confrontations with shady government agents, overwhelming faceless courtrooms, and pompous advocates who talk in riddles. His nightmare continues through narrow, dark passageways and colorless rooms where he witnesses various forms of torture and interrogation; some of what he comes upon has echoes of the Nazis and the Holocaust. And nearly everywhere he goes he stumbles over wads of paperwork (the kind that ultimately swallowed up Tuttle in Terry Gilliam's BRAZIL, a fascinating descendant of THE TRIAL). Perkins is wonderfully paranoid as he wanders aimlessly through the labyrinthine sets, which always seem to be closing in on him. THE TRIAL is an eerie nightmare of a film, one of which writer-director-costar Orson Welles was justifiably proud.
THE TRIAL tells the bizarre story of an ordinary man who is intimidated and put on trial for an unexplained crime. It is a hallucinatory, challenging film, based on the 1925 novel by Franz Kafka, and one of director Orson Welles's late masterpieces, featuring expressionistic cinematography and powerful imagery.
Based On A Novel |
Essential Cinema |
Law / Lawyers |
Theatrical Release |
Theatrical release: February 20, 1963, in New York.
The French-language version premiered in Paris on December 21, 1962.
Filmed in Paris (Gare d'Orsay abandoned train station, Studio de Boulogne), Rome, and Zagreb, Yugoslavia. Welles had originally designed a number of sets, but there was not enough money to build them. Then he saw what looked like two moons but turned out to be clock faces in the Gare d'Orsay, which became his set.
Estimated budget: $1.3 million.
The producers of the film, the Salkinds, wanted to work with Welles and offered him 20 projects to choose from; Welles originally selected Franz Kafka's THE CASTLE, but the Salkinds talked him into doing THE TRIAL. The Salkinds would later have great success with SUPERMAN, but at the time of THE TRIAL, they could not even afford cab fare back from their meeting with Welles.
Shooting began on March 26, 1961, in Paris, and ended on June 5 of that year.
During the Zagreb shooting Welles met Olga Palinkas, who would become Oja Kadar, his companion and collaborator in his later years.
Talking about filming in the abandoned Gare d'Orsay, Welles told the British television show MONITOR, "I know this sounds terribly mystical, but really a railway station is a haunted place....[The story] is full of the hopelessness of the struggle against bureaucracy....People were sent to Nazi prisons from [train stations]."
Initially, Welles was not going to appear in the film. Short of actors, he originally played the priest but decided later to play the advocate, so he cut those scenes in which he played the priest and reshot them with Michel Lonsdale playing the part. His preferred actor for the advocate: Jackie Gleason, who was unavailable.
Welles altered the emotional impact of Kafka's original ending, making it more of a struggle because of the Holocaust.
A scene featuring Katina Paxinou (who appeared in Welles's MR. ARKADIN) involving the computer was cut from the final print.
Welles dubbed in the voices for about 11 characters, including some of Anthony Perkins's dialogue; Perkins was never able to ascertain which of his lines were dubbed in by the director.
Welles told Peter Bogdanovich in THIS IS ORSON WELLES that "there's not a single symbol" in THE TRIAL.
Orson Welles, who also plays the advocate, opens and closes the film with voice-over narration (as Welles himself, not in character). The final credits are narrated by Welles.
THE TRIAL is truly Orson Welles's vision; although he ran out of funding a number of times, the final cut is his; he told Peter Bogdanovich that the film is "unspoiled in the cutting or in anything else." He went on to say, "It's the most autobiographical movie I've ever made, the only one that's really close to me."
Akim Tamiroff also appeared in Welles's TOUCH OF EVIL, MR. ARKADIN, and DON QUIXOTE, a film that was started by Welles and finished by Jess Franco.
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Movie Lover: FlimFlops Critic from
Trumbull, CT US -- April, 21, 2004
Many themes permeate the writings of Franz Kafka, but the most sinister is that of the unseen machine/society/bureaucracy/circumstance that works to confound, crush or crucify the individual; where a person attempts to make sense of the unknowable/insensible and, in the process, embarks on a spiralling journey into oblivion. This is a landmark interpretation of a difficult novel; an unheralded classic piece of filmaking. It demands much of the viewer, but stay with it. Don't miss it!
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