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LostOverThere's Classic Film Essays

As some of you know, I'm a bit of a film nut and lately I've been dabbling in the idea of writing a few miniature essays on films that I've enjoyed. I thought I'd post a few of these mini essays here to see how people respond to them.

These essays are by no means absolute, and are merely my own interpretations - translations if you will - of films which I've seen lately. Hopefully, if I'm doing my job correctly, then maybe I might even be able to encourage some of you to see some of these films!

The Trial (Orson Welles, 1962)
When someone says the name Orson Welles, most people will think along the lines of Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil and The Magnificent Ambersons. They may even think of the (surprisingly well known) "overlooked" film of his, F for Fake. Few people, however, will think of The Trial, Orson Welles' 1962 adaption of the classic novel by Franz Kafka. Beginning with Kafka's famous parable, Before the Law, The Trial tells the story of Josef K (Anthony Perkins), who one day wakes up to find he's being accused of a crime he doesn't know what of, and makes every attempt to clear his name, while working out exactly what he did wrong. The story, at heart, parallels themes set out in parable. Josef is seeking justice from the law, yet he's chasing his own ideal of what the law should entail. As the film progresses, Josef learns of the cruel reality of the law, demonstrating a sharp dichotomy between Josef's idealism and society's violent pragmatism.

The world of The Trial feels more like a nightmare than reality; its baroque architecture, abstract logic, surreal locales and complete suspension of time helps Josef K, and the audience, feel both paranoid and suppressed. Yes, this is effectively Kafka's version of George Orwell's 1984, and perfectly captures a closed off society depicting bureaucracy gone mad. The film, in this sense, is almost maddening; effortlessly demonstrating Josef's limitless sense of isolation. Make no mistake, you will want to throw your remote at the television, and run away screaming in madness.

But it is this escalating sense of fear and paranoia which makes the film so powerful, and authentically demonstrates the film's brilliant cinematic technique.

The ending of the film is indeed somewhat problematic, but as the film is effectively an allegory, it makes sense to complete it on a metaphorical level, which provides a clever conclusion for those who have been paying attention to the film's quintessential themes. As for Josef knows, the moment he starts doubting his own innocence, will be the moment he becomes guilty.
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