Haunting and atmospheric adaptation of Kafka's seminal political satire, Orson Welles described this as his `best film', and while I'm not totally convinced about the truth of that statement, it is still a rich and visually satisfying movie that remains faithful to Kafka's biting satire wrapped up in magic realism that was published to great acclaim in 1926.
Anthony Perkins' neurotic and twitchy style of acting is perfect for the central role of accused Josef K, who is put on trial for no apparent reason but who remains free to live his life in the meantime, whilst being stalked by the sinister police Inspector and plagued by a host of ultimately weak and unhelpful characters, including Jeanne Moreau's cabaret performer neighbour Miss Bursteau, and Welles himself as law advocate Halstead.
Welles decided to modernize certain aspects of the novel, he also changed the ending slightly and rearranged the book's chapters for filming. Filmed in various locations across Europe (all apart from Kafka's home town of Prague where his work was still banned as subversive) the film is visually strong, and the picture quality in this version is superb for a film that is nearly fifty years old. The famous pin-screen animation sequence that opens the film is inspired, and lends a gravitas that is often lost when adapting `serious' classics for the big screen. In some parts the movie comes across as a black comedy, while in others it is more dramatic and occasionally stagey - although the latter could be said for the majority of films made in that era. In many ways Kafka's story works better as a stage play and Welles, in his wisdom, undoubtedly knew this and created his version accordingly.
While the film has been decried in some quarters as dry and dull, it came across to me as a well-crafted and conscientious piece of work, and a worthy adaptation of a novel that deserves its status as a modern classic.