Not a film for the casual movie buff, used to camera, lights and action. This will kill you with tedium. The film is based upon the book and aimed at another palette. It inspects an allegory of power, which shifts forever downward onto the recipient. Josef K wriggles and pleads, then finally realises its full blown effect, when it is too late. Power operates not in smashing doors, jumping through blazing buildings, guns to the head, the clock ticking down to zero but through subtle underminings and constant questionning, gazes......and silences...then questions.
The film represents the slow grind of micro power, when you fall under the specific gaze. It concentrates on how these huge forces, impersonally dissect, twist and turn their victim, to ensure the aims of the organisation over-ride any individual concerns. The functionaries appear and disappear into the mire, a form of tag team wrestling...nothing personal old chap, just doing my job that's all, let's make it easy on yourself.
The film brings out the supreme folly of Josef K, his inability to grasp what is happening to him, and why. He is caught in a double bind, appealing to his prestige as a clerk, to the bank, to people who are using his status, as they strangle him. This is his first mistake, as he fails to understand the message emanating from within. He needs to make social capital, connections, to protect himself. In everyday speak, he is bereft of friends to protect him, no cronies or masonic thumb twitchers to fixit. How he rose to even the clerks job is a mystery as Equal Opps was hardly live and kicking in Czech lands pre and post WW1? He does however have an uncle, who tries to pave his way, but Josef K is waylaid by a woman.
The problem for the "hero," is he appeals to justice as an abstract quality to save him. He utlimately believes because he has done nothing wrong, then somehow this mistake will be rectified and he can continue as before. All around him are telling him oherwise, it does not matter if you are innocent, the issue is, whether you have been chosen to be guilty. This will ensure the evidence will be found to fit the group reality. The individual is sacificed to a group psychology, to stop the process from taking place, stall it, put in some time to create social capital. Josef K becomes stuck between rebellion and acquiescence. He does not comprehend the nature of power.
In failing to understand one power he comes locked into a tussle between his personal integrity and outward perception. Josef K believes he is innocent of all crimes. The transgression is never expressed. The process unfolds to determine whether he is guilty. Josef K wants to expose the deficency as a charade, using his limited sense of power to expose its flawed process to its beholders. He fails to take sufficient precautions, as those who cling to power systems are not concerned with their legitimacy, only their ability to exercise power This provides them with the ability to grind out their roles. The system is legitimated as it has a back up team of invesigators, magistrates and a host of dignitaries. It is a type of secret organisation, existing within the real world, hidden, like any secret police force, it is both resplendent and mundane.
Believing his elevated position and his innocence will protect him, whilst all around are shouting its friendship networks that derive from position, not position itself that will ensure his survival. Supplication is the key, as the living souls become droid slaves to the legal system. They prostrate themselves and become psychologically manacled to the drudgery of fighting their case. Meanwhile he is lured by sexual sirens into their beds, creating further problems as he loses sight of his innocence. The "case" requires 24/7 concentration to overcome the process and Josef K realises, he has let it all slip towards the end.
Kyle Machlachlan puts in a stilted, wooden performance and this is why it drops a star. It is difficult to raise any empathy for someone so wooden and pompous. The book I have read twice over the years, and will need to read again, provides a more stifling air of paranoia and a deep sense of injustice. No one of course listens to injustice. Everyone understands the world is composed of hierarchies of cliques who provide protection to each other, based on special interests. Some call this conspiracy, others call it social capital, but where interests collide there are outer and inner circles. Those who pull on the levers of power jealously guard it, because knowing its effects they know if they were to let go, they would feel the levers operating upon them.
Josef K does have people willing to help, but his inability to take the court seriously inhibits them from providing support. He both kowtows to the proceedings and derides it, a fatal combination whilst still operating as a functioning functionary.
This allows the grind of the machinery to proceed through its gears and eventually to declare its verdict.
The film, shot in Prague evokes the Svankmajer Central European zeitgeist before it was turned into a red light district. The acting of the main characters and scenes brings out the surreal and sexual qualities of the book. The scenes are dreamlike but also smack of reality. Bureaucracies behave in this manner, look at Control Orders, Guantanamo, Wikileaks and on a more mundane level the degrees of bullying in the Civil Service, Police and the other care services, where people are set up and arraigned.
The book provided the term Kafkaeque to denote a forceful power that adheres to the notion of law whilst busy writing the rules, as it unfurls its processes, equally changing them in mid process without notification. This film highlights the white collar worlds of stab your back. It denigrates those who do not fit into the regime.
It is a comprehensive portrayal of levels of suffocating emotional violence as those reduced to psychological slavery queue forever to hear their case being called whilst lawyers extract money to pay for their small advances.
There is still plenty within the post modern world that rattles to the tunes of the modern world. Kafka is one of those portals who still connects. It's just you have to slow down from the cocaine riddled modern cinema, based on giving high after high, to grasp reality without the drugs; it is a form of power hallucination depicted here, except each inhabits their own form of alienation.