25 November 2002 | howard.schumann
Lifeless and Academic
The Trial, of course, can be interpreted in many different ways, as a personal statement against the struggle of man to hold his own against the forces of the universe, or perhaps as an attack on the inhumane bureaucracy inherent in authoritarian government. `Kafka's novels,' says genre critic Franz Rottensteiner, `move in a circle, and their helpless heroes are caught in the fabric of a world that is ever elusive to them. They are mere cogs in a senseless social machine.' However you interpret it, The Trial is not easy to forget and seems more relevant today than ever. Translating it to film is another story.
This version has all the stuff that the Welles version lacks -- superior performances, an expensive production beautifully photographed in Prague, an outstanding screenplay by Harold Pinter, and a faithful, almost literal, adherence to Kafka's novel. The only thing missing is wit, style, a spark of life, and creative energy. With Welles version, the film ends with a powerful impact; this one ends with a resounding thud.
Kyle MacLachan, who plays Joseph K. in this version, is best known for his performances as agent Cooper in the TV and movie versions of Twin Peaks. I believe he is a better actor than Anthony Perkins; however, I found his performance to be so emotionally distant that I did not care a whit about happened to him. Supporting performances are outstanding, especially Jason Robards as the Advocate and Anthony Hopkins as the prison chaplain. In spite of my considerable esteem for Mr. Pinter, this film is flat and lifeless and the experience is little different than listening to an audiotape of the novel.