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In contrast, Welles offered only the nervous resistance of a completely isolated individual. Yet unlike the novel's protagonist, Welles' Josef is active in the legal sphere but generally passive in the erotic sphere. Consistently, he is only seduced reluctantly by the women he meets. Thus, sexuality in the film is a source of guilt and anxiety for Josef K. Welles works into the plot symbolic references to and associations with modern forms of totalitarianism and tyranny, including the legacy of concentration camps under German fascism, the threat of nuclear annihilation as a result of the Cold War, and the subordination of the individual within a technocratic mass society.

By integrating these references to different forms of state tyranny as a series of surreal confrontations that Josef K. See Figure 1. Figure 1 Anthony Perkins as Josef K. Those critics who didn't like the film tended to blame the ego of Orson Welles and his inability to discipline it in such a way as to produce a second world class film.

Facts & Figures

Since Citizen Kane , several argued, Welles had not made a similar masterpiece, and The Trial was no exception. Living up to Citizen Kane was more important to U. The film had of it "more Welles than Kafka," to be sure, but then again it was so much better than other films, "even when they are well made.

This was associated, however, with Welles rather than Kafka. American audiences won't catch the humor, critics argued, because they will see the name Kafka and automatically think of "polite despair". Here, too, they assumed this was a Wellesian addition. It wasn't. When Peter Bogdanovich asked Welles where he got the concept of the "dirty pictures in the judge's textbook," Welles responded, "From Kafka. And I got all the dirty eroticism of the rest of the movie out of that one thing. It's short. Yet here, too, this was not an inevitable approach.

As in the U. This gave viewers the chance to make comparisons, and one Berlin critic wryly noted that Welles hadn't developed his film technique much since that time. As elsewhere, television was making major incursions into formerly movie-going audiences. But more significantly, the German film industry was subject to major criticism for not managing to keep up with the quality productions issuing from other European countries, such as France and Italy. The German film was in a moribund state and needed reviving.

However, as Heide Fehrenbach has argued, the Oberhauseners were not part of a new generational trend, but had emerged out of the critical film club and festival scene of the s. It was not until the mid s that New German cinema began to come into its own. Orson Welles was a respected American auteur and popular actor with international credentials; Kafka was an internationally respected German-speaking author who had been banned by the Nazis. This combination promised something novel and sought-after: greater political and artistic diversity for German audiences in need of re-education, and aesthetic quality for German filmmakers in need of inspiration.

Its overarching goal seems to have been to reclaim Kafka as a German author of international renown. Nonetheless, his work triumphed in France, England and the United States. With this pronouncement, Schorcht seemed to be attempting to appeal both to elitist Kafka afficionados as well as average filmgoers interested in love and romance between attractive and popular actors. The majority of German critics did not agree that the film was true to Kafka and sought to understand it within the framework of "Welles vs Kafka", two auteurs with decidedly different agendas.

Yet, interestingly, this was not primarily a question of a demand for textual fidelity. The awareness that one has barely escaped a terrible catastrophe and is most likely moving toward an even greater one, gave a snobbishly cultivated "Kafkaesque" a popularity that soon irritated professional literary observers, so that in the young people in the Group 47 resolved the following: whoever pronounces the name Kafka one more time today, will be fined one German Mark. During the fifties, the myth[s] of Welles' production would be subject to objective scrutiny rather than to fashionable acceptance.

Critical reflection upon Welles' film was thus one means of coming to terms with the different possible meanings attached to the "Kafkaesque" in the postwar period. Few did this by dismissing the film; indeed, the film was praised by most critics as a fascinating attempt to come to terms with Kafka.

Yet, by and large, German critics were profoundly ambivalent about Welles' version of The Trial. Within the framework of the "Kafka vs.

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Welles" debate two principle definitions of the "Kafkaesque" emerged from the critical discourse. Even if critics preferred an ahistorical, metaphysical version, the debate nonetheless created a space for a historical Kafka that Welles in his film had inextricably linked to the German past. Welles offered this version in the Schorcht film publicity, reprinted in the Welt am Sonntag : "Why Kafka?

Because of his up-to-dateness. This story of a person, who winds up underneath the wheels of the organized society, the wheels of the police, the army, the justice system And will always exist. That is the story, that is a dream, filled with dream logic. Despite this reality shimmers through everywhere.

The reality of the concentration camps and the Gestapo, that Kafka anticipated. The reality of today, where the individual is lost in the whirlpool of the masses. A film that finally demonstrates what film is and should be. Ultimately, Thiel did not think Kafka's Trial was an appropriate vehicle through which to critique the totalitarian state, and that Welles' version left the viewer "with the baroque violence of isolated ideas.

Volker Baer wrote in the Tagesspiegel Berlin : "over these pathetic creatures, who are being intimidated to death by a totalitarian system, hang coldly threatening meat hooks which recall terrible associations with concentration camps. Welles has extended and concretized Kafka's vision. Particularly such works as "In der Strafkolonie" began to be taught at German universities just as the first eyewitness accounts of concentration camps were published after the war.

According to critic Walter Kaul, foreigners had essentially made Kafka into "a world fashion, in whose train concepts such as Angst, mechanization and bureaucratization cavorted with one another. Welles would like to persuade Kafka, as have others before him, that he had prophesied Hitler, all terror dictatorships, concentration camps and other anonymous tortures, [as] a visionary contemporary critic Welles misunderstanding is "horribly banal"; he views Josef K. Kafka did not see fascism coming, she continues.

Rather, he saw a world without God. Niehoff's discussion of her own sense of Kafka, however, revealed a preoccupation with questions of guilt and its attribution that suggested history played a role in the "Kafkaesque" as much as did metaphysics and religion:. That which gets the heart beating while reading Kafka is the untragic triviality and how it insinuates itself; the absurd does not reveal itself as such, rather it becomes the crystalline result of an unprotected Reality considered through to its logical conclusion; the complacent everydayness hides and releases in every moment the possibility, not only to be put on trial, but, what is even worse, to actually become guilty, guilt based upon an unknown and inaccessible law.

Karena Niehoff was a Jewish woman who had survived the Nazi period in the Berlin underground. After the war she became a journalist and wrote for the Berliner Tagesspiegel between and her death in She was also a witness in the postwar trial of the German filmmaker Veit Harlan. She was politically engaged, but refrained from talking about the past and did not draw attention to her status as a Jewish survivor in her work. Welles had "modernized" Kafka. He wrote in Arts that Welles had "accused that which had made history even more Kafkaesque than Kafka: the world of the concentration camps, and, in short visual allusions, had awakened the memory of the Nazi camps.

This world threatens to become our world as we continue on the road of progress. The first was the guilt of the accused who resists the accusation; he is guilty of being an individual. And as an individual, he is guilty of collaboration, of being a cog in a system, becoming frightened only when he is accused himself. His views and those of other French critics were circulated widely in German film magazines.

Today, whoever has experienced a trial, whether a political trial directed against war criminals all the way to civil cases involving traffic violations, notices again and again how in our secularized times the consciousness of guilt has either receded or been completely damaged. Particularly in treason cases the familiar phenomenon may be observed, that fear of terror and its organizations is much stronger than the feeling that one is guilty of something In Welles film, the conscience has long since been lost, and the terror of an authoritarian regime and its organizations liquidates the isolated, soulless human being.

Many German critics rejected this idea by way of a critique of the American actor Anthony Perkins's performance.

Beat Mazenauer

Anthony Perkins did not fit either of these. First, Perkins was a well-known star in the early s, which made it difficult for viewers to understand the figure of K. In The Trial there is a tendency to self-destructiveness, to complicity in one's own destruction, to masochism Orson Welles does not pick up on this strain. Only for this reason could he choose an actor for whom the grey anonymity of the Man without a last name does not fit, and in whom one can detect no traces of resignation or complicity with his own enemies.

In the final scene, in particular, as well as in his response to the Parable of the Law, Josef K. The director had projected his own identity as a "rebel against American conformity" onto Josef K. Welles belonged in this company. S as imperialist world power or purveyer of mass culture. And even his later, more romantic role, as the young lover opposite Ingrid Bergman in Lieben Sie Brahms?

Goodbye Again echoed the effeminate qualities of the character of Bates for a number of German critics. Thus, paradoxically, critics found Perkins too heroic, American and protest-oriented on the one hand, and too neurotic, hectic and jumpy on the other. This combination of qualities, bridging as it did conventional divisions of gender, was not suited to the characterization of an anonymous everyman. He portrays the increasing confusion of Josef K. It has been criticized that Anthony Perkins' Josef K does not get under the skin.

But Kafka is not Hitchcock. His intellectualism prevents him from leaving things at a recoverable shock.


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The insinuating confusion of our time does not hit like a bolt of lightening. And psychologically it is much more likely that the crew of an anchorless ship would be more subject to a paralyzing sense of horror than to spontaneous panic. In addition, Welles also linked those qualities to Perkins' status as a closet homosexual; Josef K's fears were thus linked to transgressive sexuality.

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Indeed, Welles relied upon the intertextual quality of Perkins' image to lend to Josef K. Filter Sort. Sorted By: Top Matches. Filtered By:. Grid List.

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