Trial is a dive into a twisted and contrived world

The Trial is a dive into a twisted and contrived world written by Franz Kafka, and wonderfully adapted to film by Orson Welles. Each work tells the unfortunate story of Josef K. attempting to prove his innocence after getting arrested for a crime he claims to have not committed. Though there are notable differences between the film and literature, each is able to present major themes of power, justice, paranoia, sex and art.The Trial is a dive into a twisted and contrived world written by Franz Kafka, and wonderfully adapted to film by Orson Welles. Each work tells the unfortunate story of Josef K. attempting to prove his innocence after getting arrested for a crime he claims to have not committed. Though there are notable differences between the film and literature, each is able to present major themes of power, justice, paranoia, sex and art.Orson Welles considered his version of The Trial “the greatest film [he] had ever made.”

Though film critics initially didn’t feel the same way, it is easy to see why he felt so proudly about his reworking of the book. Welles was loyal to The Trial’s themes while applying his own ideas, filming style and vision that complimented Kafka’s oppressive world. The changes or additions Welles would make didn’t apply greatly to the plot but more so to the characters, both major and minor, and fleshing out the environments they interact in. Welles expressionist style in filming The Trial added dramatic, visually interesting flair that wasn’t present in the book, where everything was mostly bland and blended into itself. Welles was still able to visualize the book with his aesthetic without making it inorganic or take away from the story. One of the notable differences between the film and book is Josef K.’s personality. Kafka made the K. in the book pompous and a bit obnoxious at times towards most people. The K. in the movie is more of an everyman who can be awkward at times but stands up for himself in the face of the Law and becomes much more bold as the movie progresses in interactions not only with the Law but also women.

The women in the movie have also been tweaked by Welles to be more sexually interested in K. and pursue him, and there are many more sexual references in the movie; K. thinking the officer in the beginning saying ‘pornograph; instead of pornograph, K.’s boss implying that he’s sleeping with his underage cousin, and finding the dirty book while talking to Hilda. The parable about the man waiting outside of the cathedral was moved made into a prologue instead of being kept at the end, most likely for the audience to keep the theme of the law’s limiting effect on the individual in mind to compare to what K. will go through in his own story. The ending, where K. is blown up instead of stabbed, is another distinct change but one that Welles thought would be more suitable as to not have K. succumb to the irrational government’s laws, and rather mock his executioners, their ignorance and the system that they work for.

The film doesn’t deviate from the book in significant ways, and was produced in such a way that it captures the confined and disorienting world of the book. The sets are somehow large and claustrraphobic, similar to the book describes the world and the spaces its inhabitants occupy. The buildings and ceilings are sky high but the rooms are always cramped. The characters are always close and sometimes laying ontop of each other while talking, or a room will be filled to the brim with various people. Major characters like K., Leni, Titorelli, and Huld still have the same motives, beliefs, and actions as they do in the book and have the same surreal and off-putting effect as in the novel.

The use of these people and what they symbolize is thoroughly realized and filmed in a dramatic way that makes it appropriately dramatic and coalesce well with the themes the book contained. Uncomfortable moments in the novel, like when K. walks in on the officials getting whipped, feel just as difficult and distressing as when I read them. Franz Kafka’s The Trial is an appropriately heralded work of literature, as nearly everyone can relate or see themselves in the place of K not only battling to prove themselves innocent, but of a legal system system and government that is far too overreaching without being useful and harming its citizens. Orson Welles’ transformation of this work to film is masterful and captures the themes, scenery, characters and emotion Kafka portrayed in his terrifyingly probable world.

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