The Trial Review

by Kim Newman |
Published on
Release Date:

01 Jan 1993

Running Time:

120 minutes



Original Title:

Trial, The

Franz Kafka's greatest work was previously filmed by Orson Welles in 1963 with Anthony Perkins, and managed to capture the feel of the monstrously influential book without being shackled by its detail. This version, with a script by Harold Pinter, is a plodding bore and embalms Kafka's work in a succession of sitcom scenes in which the protagonist is confronted by an eccentric supporting actor or a provocative woman as he strides purposefully towards the inevitable ending.

As Josef K., the bank clerk who is mysteriously arrested and makes the mistake of submitting to the processes of a legal system designed to be unfair and arbitrary, MacLachlan would seem to be perfectly cast. But he has chosen to blend in with a predominantly RSC-type cast by adopting a stiff upper lip attitude and a ridiculous Oxbridge accent reminiscent of an unsympathetic officer in a 1942 British war film.

Impossible to feel anything for, he is a supercilious creep we're glad to see get what he deserves and, moreover, this simplistic reading of the part makes the film intolerable. There's a bunch of guest stars - Juliet Stevenson, Jason Robards, Alfred Molina and Anthony Hopkins as a priest - and a steady trudge, horribly scored by Carl Davis, around Prague locations.

The story is too bluntly set in Kafka's time and place when he was deliberately trying to create an archetypal, fantastical cityscape, and it seems puzzling that Richard Eyre and Alan Bennett's The Insurance Man or Steven Soderbergh's Kafka fell through the cracks and never got a theatrical release while this is hauled on to the big screen to die like a dog.

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