Friday, June 8, 2012

The Trial

The Trial; drama, France/ Italy/ Germany, 1962; D: Orson Welles, S: Anthony Perkins, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Esla Martinelli, Akim Tamiroff, Orson Welles

Joseph K. awakes one morning and finds two police inspectors in his apartment who inform him that he is charged - but do not specify for what. Joseph is thereupon abandoned by his neighbor, Ms Burstner, who previously kissed him. Joseph confronts the absurdities of his "trial" in a courtroom and even hires a lawyer, but soon dismisses his services. Not even an artist can help him. Surrounded by peculiar behaviour, he is confronted one night by two men who bring him to an isolated trench and kill him with a dynamite.

Even though he had better films at his disposal - "The Touch of Evil", "The Magnificent Ambersons", "Othello" - Orson Welles once picked "The Trial" as his own favorite film, probably identifying himself with the covertly persecuted protagonist Joseph K. since he was himself under pressure for almost every film he made since "Citizen Kane" as an "invisible" punishment for basing it on the life of William Randolph Hearst. "The Trial" is, just like Franz Kafka's novel, an expressionistic and deeply symbolic allegory (persecution of innocent people based on their nationality, belief or religion; staged trials), yet overstretched and too hermetic with numerous scenes and actions that do not make sense. The unconnected, too surreal dialogues and artificial story flow are two of the biggest burdens of this quality achievement, which make it seem less as a clear narrative that can be followed and more like a felliniesque nightmarish state of peculiar behavior of people, yet Welles' shot composition, especially his beloved deep focus, and a sharp visual style are again brilliant, blending in well with the locations (among them the Zagreb Cathedral and the Pučko otvoreno učilište), whereas Anthony Perkins is well cast as the coiled-confused protagonist. In one of the most virtuoso sequences, after leaving the artist's shack, Joseph is running through a corridor of vertical planks, whose vertical "stripes" of light give the illusion as if he is behind prison bars, indicating how the whole society he lives in is his prison.


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