The Trial


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Current Rating 10/10 | 2 Votes

     I guess you should know right off the bat that I'm not really a fan of Citizen Kane. This, the second Orson Welles movie I've seen, I consider vastly superior to that extremely influential but somewhat underwhelming film. This is also a very influential movie; if you don't believe me, watch Brazil and you'll see what I mean right away. I didn't read Kafka's book (although after such a cool movie, I'm tempted to); I do know, however, from a handy copy of an interview with Welles, that he made the character of Joseph K (Anthony Perkins, who makes an excellent neurotic and generally a compelling lead) less passive than in the book. According to Welles, this is because he didn't believe that "passive characters are appropriate for drama." Well, whatever he changed, it's all good.

Joseph K wakes up one morning because a policeman enters his room unexpectedly. K assumes that Miss Burstner (Jeanne Moreau, who has one scene in the whole movie) has entered and calls out her name; the inspector asks him if he was expecting Burstner. No? Than why did you call out her name? Well, answers K, you came in from her room; how was I supposed to know that you were a policeman and not Miss Burstner? Answers the policeman, does Miss Burstner normally enter your room in the middle of the night? And so the conversation goes on for 5 or 10 minutes.

If you don't find that funny, you might not want to watch this movie. The Trial is an ultra-dark comedy about guilt, neuroticism, and other hilarious topics normally only addressed by Woody Allen. The dialogue is mostly absurdist and vague. Welles himself considered it a comedy (and also noted, "Say what you will, but The Trial is the best film I have ever made." Peter Bogdanovich, his friend and interviewer, disagreed; it was the one Welles film he did not enjoy).

Obviously, this is an allegory of something or other: it might be about buearocracy, or a man awakening to his environment and rejecting everything in it, or it might be a treatise on the nature of The Law. Anything your little heart desires. Oblique and puzzling, it's a delirious cinematic blast (Andrew Sarris described it as a hallucination); technique, yes, but also a plot and characters of interest which, in my mind, seperates it from Citizen Kane. Hilarious, compelling, and unsettling, it's an absolute must-see. Of course, not much actually happens; but we learn everything we could ever want to know about K's environment. What you do with this information is up to you.

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