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It's all a conspiracy...
This is a really weird movie. People will instantly recognize that it is an adaptation of Franz Kafka's writing, and that's exactly what it is. It isn't an adaptation of any one book of his, but rather of his writing as a whole. All the Kafka-esquire things you'd expect are here: conspiracy, paranoia, mystery, and the like. What is so amazing that they come together absolutely fantastically. The cinematography is especially ingenious and really captures the mysterious and cryptic look and feel of a Kafka tale. The use of color and B&W is pretty simple, but very effective. In fact the whole movie is pretty simple, there are no spectacular stunts or extraordinary set pieces, just a relentless, nail-biting, suspense as Kafka searches for answers to who murdered his friend. He receives help from a supposed rebel group who talks of a secret order and conspiracy that works from the confines of a mysterious looking building outside of town, but they are soon murdered...so Kafka goes to find the truth for himself. First-rate suspense all the way. 10/10

Rated PG-13: some violence and grim content
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Kafka, brought to life by Soderbergh
jonathandoe_se7en14 July 2001
Many filmmakers have often failed when attempting to adapt the work of writer Franz Kafka (most famously Orson Wells), so it comes as quite a surprise to see Steven Soderbergh mixing his life and fiction with fantastic results. The story concerns Kafka (a never better Jeremy Irons) investigating the disappearance of one of his work colleagues. The plot takes Kafka through many of the writer's own works, most notably "The Castle" and "The Trial"...

With his follow up to the cool indie hit Sex, lies and videotape (1989) Soderbergh switches both style and ideas completely, creating an evocative and ethereal world of 1920 Prague, full of shadows and bizarre mutations. He also employs shifts between colour and black and white film stock, to give the film a more dreamlike feel.

Visually it is similar to another film from the same year, Lars Von Trier's Europa (1991), which also was about a man searching for the truth. But Kafka is more accessible, being both a gripping thriller and in some ways a black comedy. But however you choose to look at it, there is no denying Kafka's ability to amaze and enthral.
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'Why should today be different from any other?' - why should we even have dreams, huh?
rogierr12 July 2001
Not very accessible film about supposed parts of the life of Franz Kafka with fantastic distinctive music and great photography. I really think Soderbergh is one of few (Welles, Gilliam, Cronenberg, Roeg maybe) who are able to create something like this. He is one of the most versatile directors of our time. Only his third feature (right after 'Sex, Lies & Videotape') and definitely his best besides Traffic. This film is one of the reasons independent filmmaking is the only way to achieve great cinematic creations. Kafka's twilight and absurd world is really portrayed in an excellent way.

The cinematography by Walt Lloyd is absolutely brilliant. The best of all films from the nineties. It was probably inspired by Brazil (1985), The Third Man (1949) and The Trial (1963). I wish this film was 60 minutes longer. If only to give the cast more time to perform completely. The acting isn't uplifting, but definitely not bad. All the actors had better performances in other movies (Theresa Russell in Track 29, Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers, Jeroen Krabbe in King of the Hill, Ian Holm in Brazil).

10 points out of 10 ;-)
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A Kafkanian World On Screen
Rodrigo_Amaro18 January 2011
Steven Soderbergh's cult "Kafka" is not a biopic of writer Franz Kafka, yet it has references of his works such as "The Castle", passages of his life (where he tells to a friends to burn his manuscripts away without showing his writings to the public) and a main character who happens to be a writer named Kafka.

The extremely shy Kafka (Jeremy Irons) works in a bureaucratic place where he also writes to himself a few stories and some letters to his father. In this same place he only has one friend, a guy named Edward Raban who disappeared mysteriously. Kafka starts a strange journey trying to figure out what happened to his friend entering in a dangerous game with some strange figures such as Edward's lover and Kafka's co-worker (Theresa Russell) and her revolutionary friends; a very friendly figure who knows too much (Jeroen Krabbé); Grubach a police inspector (Armin Mueller-Stahl); and some of his own work colleagues such as his new assistants (Keith Allen and Simon McBurney), his estranged boss (Alec Guinness) and the annoying Mr. Burgel (Joel Grey); and at last Dr. Murnau (Ian Holm).

In a magnificent performance Jeremy Irons makes of his Kafka a man suffocated by the environment where he lives and the only way to escape of it it's to write stories that reflect his life in an awkward way and/or his life as an "investigator" that took him to darker places that could have been a source of inspiration for his works. The movie goes to tell us that he lived in a bizarre and very surrealistic place with surrealistic figures all around him and they were always trying to watch his next step, what he was doing and Kafka run away from this people, hides his writing works. This is a good thriller material!

Soderbergh makes of "Kafka" a good humored film noir that has a great mystery to be solved, the rhythm of the film is intertwined with some slow paced moments where you can pause your brain to solve some of the puzzles, a frantic suspense that goes to complete a surrealistic plot. The final result is a great movie with nothing obvious and it makes good homages to Kafka's work, and homages to another classic films. It is an interesting cross between "The Third Man" and "Brazil", the visual of those two films combined along with the almost colorless Kafka's books are put together in here.

Walt Lloyd's cinematography is one of the most interesting and effective work ever made in film history, a photography that goes from black and white to color in a great way, showing these two worlds that seem to distant so each other when in fact they're close enough. In this case you can sense that the colorful world presented in the castle isn't better than the oppressive grey world outside of its dominions, the colors are presented only to tell us a frightening reality that is so shocking that we really want to go back to the black and white world along with Kafka. And as a great mind said one time: "The black and white doesn't lie".

Unnoticed in its time "Kafka" is a cult film that must be revered by everyone and must of all revered by Kafka's fans even though this is not a biographical movie, it's more like a film that reveals more of his persona and an invitation to visually penetrate to his own creations. Or don't you think that we don't live in a Kafkanian nightmare in a Kafkanian world? 10/10
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Visually stunning and thematically complex melding of Kafka's life and work
ThreeSadTigers18 March 2008
This is a somewhat curious film, attempting to be old-fashioned - in the sense that we have varying strands from an early-twentieth century writer, as well as setting, production design and various visual iconography - yet at the same time striving for a sense of post-modernist reinvention. So, what we end up with is a stunning, self-referential combination of the 'look' (which mixes elements of Carol Reed's The Third Man and Welles' Citizen Kane), with elements of the steam-punk sub-genre of films like Eraserhead, Brazil, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Barton Fink, etc . The story also concerns itself with the notions of the film-noir, both in terms of characterisation, narrative tension and visual design.

So, with Kafka (1991), we not only have the externally referential - of Kafka writing a story, whilst simultaneously involving himself in a real-life plot that will, in turn, become the story he is writing (The Castle) - but also the internal references to Kafka's own biographical history; from his job at the insurance company, to the difficult relationship with his father, and also his failed love affair etc. In the lead role we have one of Britain's most competent actors, Jeremy Irons, who, although never looking exactly like Kafka, does at least manage to embody the quiet, stubborn, meticulous spirit of the writer (or, at least the image that we have of him). His performance is one of complete restraint, far removed from some of his more caricatured performances of recent years, as he offers up a mirrored perspective for the audience; lingering in the background of the scene and simply reacting to what is going on around him (again, a popular device from Kafka's work).

Director Steven Soderbergh compliments and visualises the screenplay by Lem Dobbs exceptionally well, drawing on the aforementioned influences in a similar, post-modernistic way to their subsequent 1999 collaboration, The Limey. Soderbergh also offers us a depiction of a crumbling Europe thrown into confusion, creating a fully functioning world, much like Ridley Scott did with Blade Runner - offering us an illustration of the past by way of the future - or a depiction of Europe in decline to rival that of Fassbinder's The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979), von Trier's Europa (1991) and Soderbergh own subsequent film, The Good German (2006). So, whereas most films are content to create, or in this case recreate, early-twentieth century iconography in which the past is as pristine and shockingly brand-new, as if it were created only a yesterday, here we get a past that is dirty, grimy, filled with smoke, fog and dust; in short... totally believable.

This is a film the people expect too much coherency from; something that Soderbergh's continual mainstream success has only damaged further. As more and more cinema-goers come to adore films like Oceans 11 (2000), Traffic (2001) and Solaris (2002), they come to Kafka expecting a mainstream Hollywood thriller. Kafka couldn't be further from this. Here is an intelligent film that draws on the audience's understanding of European cinema and, to some extent, Kafka's own literary back-catalogue in order to piece together the film's central mystery. The main reference point is Kafka's book The Castle; here featured as an imposing fortress atop a shadowy hill. Inside, Kafka finds Ian Holm's mad scientist and the film switches to glorious Technicolor. There are also allusions made to The Trail, with Armin Mueller-Stahl's detective doggedly questioning Kafka's whereabouts and the integrity of his 'story' (an important factor within the film's internal struggle), as well as a direct reference to The Metamorphosis and some of the writer's more abstract shorter pieces.

Soderbergh and Dobbs aren't concerned with pandering to anyone here; they allow the story to remain, much like Kafka himself, an enigma. The story grips us like film-noir should, and Soderbergh keeps us enthralled with his constantly inventive camera work. This is a perfect film that deals with notions of fact and fiction, dreams and reality. The filmmakers respect our intelligence; they understand that some question can remain unanswered and film can work better as a result of this. Whether or not you believe the story to have taken place entirely in Kafka's head (note how the last shot of the film sees Kafka at his writing desk) or whether you see it as the mirroring of fact and fiction is entirely up to you. With fine support from Theresa Russell, Jeroen Krabbé and Alec Guinness, coupled with an exotic Cliff Martinez score, what we have with Kafka is one of the best and most underrated films of the nineteen nineties. A unique experience.
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Definitely not a case of "sophomore slump"
craigjclark4 October 2001
Some see this film as a step down from Steven Soderbergh's brilliantly-constructed debut feature, "sex, lies and videotape." I see it as a significant step in his artistic development (even if its commercial and critical failure limited the audiences for his next several films). Certainly no one expected him to follow the low-key, character-driven "sex, lies" with such a complicated, stylized film as "Kafka."

An inspired script by Lem Dobbs and a great cast drive Soderbergh's visually rich film. Besides the leads, of note are Joel Grey as the self-important bureaucrat Burgel, Brian Glover as the menacing Castle Henchman, and Keith Allen and Simon McBurney as Kafka's side-splittingly incompetent "assistants." And Cliff Martinez's score (inspired by "The Third Man") is ingenious.

To call this film underrated would be a severe understatement.
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Bizarre And Enjoyable Arty Horror-Drama With Great Cast
ShootingShark18 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Kafka, a clerk at a Prague insurance firm, is upset when a friend mysteriously vanishes. Investigating the disappearance, he uncovers a group of terrorists trying to expose a secret police state where all non-conformists are kidnapped and murdered.

This is a terrific mosaic of a picture; part biopic (Franz Kafka was a clerk, did not get on with his father, asked a friend to destroy his manuscripts and died of tuberculosis), part adaptation of Kafka's fiction (notably The Castle and The Trial), part homage to German expressionist cinema (Holm's character is called Murnau), and an enjoyably scary Gothic thriller with a great mad cast. Irons is a perfectly repressed hero, Russell is as gorgeous and intimidating as ever, Krabbe steals his scenes as a canny gravedigger, Mueller-Stahl is a copper from forties film-noir complete with razor-blade voice, Glover is an iconic villain and Allen and McBurney have a whale of a time as two pratfalling assistants. The script is a bit disposable, but it captures the essence of Kafka's nightmarish scribblings perfectly - hideous bureaucracy, impotent heroes, monstrous cabals, devious conspiracies and an overwhelming sense that truth and beauty are beyond our grasp. Shot in Prague in glorious black-and-white on fantastic period locations and stunning sets by production designer Gavin Bocquet. This is a great filmmaker's film - it's impossible to imagine it existing in any other form of expression, and it manages to be richly artistic but at the same time extremely enjoyable and completely lacking in pretension. Soderbergh is a bit of an enigma to me - this is a great movie, as is his subsequent film, King Of The Hill, but both bombed financially, whereas many of his later more commercial and critically-lauded movies are much less interesting. Check out Kafka though - it's got style, scares and terrific performances, and it's about the greatest paranoid fantastist that ever lived.
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MrsRainbow24 March 1999
If you're an actual fan of Kafka, I would recommend steering clear of this one. If you're not, then I would say that this is the kind of film that people watch and say, "Wow, that's the kind of movie that makes you think," which is one of the dumbest things I think that can be said about a film. Such films, I have found, tend to bring up rather crude and elementary ideas and toss them out as something profound. (If a film really does make you think, you don't say so, because you probably watch films like that all the time anyway. So a movie which doesn't have the soundtrack running every 30 seconds is not new to you). If you think that Orwell's 1984 is a profound book, then you'll think this movie is enjoyable. If you know better, then you probably won't.

I didn't find Kafka (the film) very engaging at all. It did not make many attempts at subtle references to his works, which would have been fun at least. The closest we get is two assistants working for him in his office (The Castle), and Irons at one point is asked what he's working on and says a book about a man who wakes up to find himself turned into an insect. Of course there's the castle in the movie, etc.., but these are so obvious that they're dull. Small references to his life are also made, such as his asking Brod to destroy his works, he starts coughing up blood at the end, etc..

Kafka the film is like a decent landscape painter's works, you look at them, say oh that's nice, and move on to the next one. They lack the profound melancholy of a Friedrich, or the tempestuous battle of the elements, as in a Turner. Something within the soul of the artist which infuses his work with a meaning deeper than a mere reproduction of nature or his social environment.

What's missing in Kafka the film is what makes Kafka the author appealing. His books are not simple lessons about the dangers of totalitarianism or any such easily conjured up enemy. It's the existential torment of the protagonist which is so captivating. Whether Kafka is struggling with God, or authority, or bureaucracy, or modernity, is fun to bat around, but not the essential point.

The film is sophomoric, because rather than focus on or depict this struggle, it turns Kafka into some sort of prophet waging war against ideological biology and the democratization of mankind's soul. Can you read that into him? Perhaps. But don't turn an incredibly unique and profound author into a neo-Marxist political science major writing for the college newspaper.

What disturbed me the most about the film was that they had the gall to go into the castle and explain to you what was inside. The whole point of Kafka's work is that we DIDN'T KNOW what was going on there. So we get ushered into the castle and given an 8th grade ethics class. Pathetic.
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Subjective reality
AdFin19 January 2002
The above statement (coined by myself in an odd bout of pretension) refers to any film in which the central character inhabits a world in which he/she has no say in their own outcome; everything is pre-destined from the start. The actors therefore become mere marionettes, puppets controlled by the film-makers as a function to drive the plot, or the story that is unfolding in this world. With Kafka, we never really feel too much of a connection with the man himself (main character Kafka played by Jeremy Irons), but we are interested in his outcome because the subjective reality of his world draws us in. Sometimes this idea of the atmosphere of a film being what draws us in can go horribly wrong, it's not like say, Gone in 60 seconds (2000)... I'm not talking about a thick, glowing sludgy style of cinematography that has become all the more popular with younger film-makers. I am instead talking about the more classical style of film, composition, lighting and production design... Kafka has this in spades.

Steven Soderbergh is possibly the most talented director at work at the moment (that's debatable, but he is the most talented American director of the last fifteen years), his ability to effortlessly switch both genre and cinematic devise is a talent most directors lack, but Soderbergh went from the low-key drama of Sex, Lies & Videotape to the arty-thriller Kafka, and then moved onto the arty-low-key drama King of the Hill... Those where films that where brimming with ideas, mood and a strong independent visual sense, something his more recent films lack. With Kafka, Soderbergh applied the dark, noir-ish style of Wells and Bergman, with just the right blend of modern multi-media devises, colour is used to show the jarring contrast between the real-world (the subjective reality) to the horror's of the Castle. The skewed angles and the editing of certain scenes not only give the film a certain style, but help the audience identify between the different dreamscapes the film switches between, weather it be the world or Kafka's own imagination.

Much has been said in recent IMDB reviews about how the film is a betrayal of Kafka, having never read a word of Kafka I cannot comment, but I think people should allow Soderbergh and writer Lem Dobbs some artistic licensing. This is not an attempt to tell the life story of Kafka, it's more a "what if..." scenario, what if actual events dictated the writings of Kafka. The film blares the boundaries between fantasy and reality, and this is the point, this is why the film is set-up to conform to Subjective reality, we are being taken into Kafka's own world, a world he has absolutely no control over. Besides, most people are missing the point, and that is the film is a fantasy, not historical document, none of these would be literati's have mentioned the exemplary acting of all concerned.

Jeremy Irons is an actor I usually have little time for, in all honesty I have only seen a handful of his films and few of them left an impression, but here he is cast well, his stuffy British-ness and detached glare makes him an almost mythical figure, drifting around the city unsure of what will happen next. And the supporting cast is very credible, with roles for the legendary Alec Guinness, Ian Holm in a role not too dissimilar to the one he played in Gilliam's Brazil, Verhoeven regular Jeroen Krabbé puts in an appearance as one of Kafka's few allies and Armin Mueller-Stahl plays the dogged police inspector. The only annoyance amongst the cast is "Fat Les" himself Keith Allen as one half of a laughable (un)funny Laurel and Hardy-esque double act. Kafka is an unbelievably assured film from the (then) young Soderbergh that needs to be seen by more people besides Kafka fanatics who are only destroying the mystique of the film with their propaganda. This is a standout fantasy-thriller that has more style and intelligence than anything you'll find playing at you're local multiplex. 10/10
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An Admirable Effort
itamarscomix3 November 2012
Much like David Cronenberg's 'Naked Lunch', 'Kafka' attempts to merge a biographical film and a literary adaptation, by combining elements from Franz Kafka's notoriously unfilmable books and stories with details from his real life. The thing is, where Steven Soderbergh's film is an admirable effort at filming Kafka's work, other films by more accomplished directors, made around the same time or several years earlier, managed to capture Kafka's spirit much more successfully without ever mentioning his name or the title of any of his works - Scorsese's 'After Hours', Woody Allen's 'Shadows and Fog', and to a lesser extent Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil' and Joel & Ethan Coen's 'Barton Fink' all achieve Kafka's unique feeling of futility and paranoia, as well as his pitch black sense of humor, while 'Kafka' resembles Kafka's writing mainly on the surface. This is the script's fault more than Soderbergh's, because the film looks great and delivers the dark, weird disconcerting feeling of Kafka's works, but by not delving into the philosophy behind them, by having almost no sense of humor, and by adhering to a pretty straightforward conspiracy plot, it remains little more than an aesthetic illustration of what a Kafka film might look like.

Despite a weak script, the film manages several memorable scenes, mainly thanks to terrific cinematography and a wonderful cast - Jeremy Irons, surprisingly, not being one of the film's standout performance. Rather, it's more minor characters played by Joel Grey, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Keith Allen, Simon McBurney and the great Alec Guinness in his last feature film role that stick to the viewer's mind, and for brief moments they can create the sense of paranoia, of surreal, nightmarish bureaucracy that is at the root of Kafka's writing; again, without the underlying philosophy, there's something unsatisfying about the overall result, and the story keeps distracting from the more interesting aspects. The film is, overall, interesting but frustrating; it's probably worth watching for Kafka fans, but it's not good enough to truly appease them. On the other hand, it may be too confusing for anyone who isn't familiar enough with his work.
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All style, no substance.
simon-21817 April 2001
This film is a waste of potential. Great actors. Great city. Great cinematography. Artistic and creative. A shame that the dialogue, characters and plot were so pathetic. All style, no substance. Don't waste your time on this one.
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excellent 1st hour,but the movie get's lost in a Frankenstein mode
dwpollar26 March 2001
1st watched 10/3/1998 - 5 out of 10(Dir - Steven Sonderbergh): Despite it's excellent 1st hour with Jeromy Iron's playing a quirky insurance inspector investigating the strangeness surrounding his partner's disappearance, the movie get's lost in a Frankenstein mode and it never returns. The quest for the goings on in the castle do not lend to the humor of the 1st hour and seem to have needed to be in another movie.
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Too Depressing & Gloomy
ccthemovieman-113 July 2006
Despite the excellent black-and-white cinematography (which is seen for all but 15 minutes of this film), I canned this movie from my collection because the story was almost incomprehensible. It also was too depressing, too gloomy.

This really is more of a horror film than anything else with a few uncomfortable scenes as people are being killed and/or used as guinea pigs in experiments. I would think this would not appeal to most people who aren't in some form of counseling or therapy (or should be!).

Yet, that wonderful film-noir photography with great lights and shadows, made it intriguing to view.....once.
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Great movie, hard to get
siderite13 May 2007
This film is a tribute to Franz Kafka, with a plot inspired from his writings. Without reading at least one book by Kafka, the film is totally incomprehensible. A writer that lived at the end of the 18th century and the start of the 19th, he wrote about the depressing world of oppressing capitalism, the same mass oriented philosophy that inspired fascism and communism alike. His books were never happy and their ending was often depressing.

So why should this film be any different? The plot is kind of shifty, but the acting, cinematography, location and music are great. After seeing this film, I can't imagine anybody else but Jeremy Irons in the lead role.

Bottom line: it's about the feeling. The same dark feeling that Kafka expressed through his books is expressed by this movie. The story (a mix of Kafka subjects) is just a pretext. Be warned, though, that it is not an easy movie. It is a noir and heavy film.
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And the point was?
Maciste_Brother17 June 2003
I usually don't care if a movie has a point or not, as long as it's effective or compelling or original, or so bad it's good. But Steven Soderbergh's KAFKA is none of those things. It appears very pointless. The whole thing feels more like a trite exercise by people with too much time on their hands than anything else. The B&W cinematography wasn't even that great. And because the film is hampered with a distracting sense of deja vu (many elements in it have already been explored in several other movies, like BRAZIL), well, the whole thing ended up being dull, derivative and pointless. The excellent cast is wasted, certainly Theresa Russell, in what basically amounts to a cameo appearance disguised as a role. There's nothing new in KAFKA.
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Expressionism in Film :- The Divine Kafka {Steven Soderbergh}
Stanley-Becker16 January 2011
Well, I viewed this Soderbergh vignette of the motifs, and fictionalization of some of the facts in the life of K. I must say that although I preferred Daniel Day-Lewis's T.V. rendition in the Insurance Man {1986}, I am a big fan of Jeremy Irons {loved his Cronenberg Dead Ringers "tour de force"} and always find his image arresting. I have a slight reservation about his look in this movie. What was particularly impressive acting-wise was the interaction between Sir Alec Guinness and Irons and later in the climax when the great Ian Holms and Irons battle it out for the heart and mind of Humanity - when Kafka declares "I merely write about Nightmares but you create them" I thought that the whole scenario when Kafka enters the Castle and encounters the labyrinthine corridors, the endless doors, the multitude of bureaucrats, culminating in a finely rendered Hitchcockian chase involving shadows, clocks and a precarious {edge-of-seat} balancing act on a glass-dome - powerful movie muti. I could see the movie clearly in my head over 24 hours later. You need not know anything about Kafka in order to enjoy this movie about an alienated young man who has taken an unambitious clerkship as a result of qualifying as a lawyer and now imagines himself a writer to escape the dreariness of his tasks. His hunger for the catharsis of worldly pleasures leads him to bohemian outlets which in turn leads to more radical connections { where he delivers his quintessential challenge to the writing profession "I don't write for others, I write for myself"}. The "femme fatale" is interestingly portrayed by Theresa Russell, who manages to combine the intellectual virago with a sensual ooze which contrasts well with Kafka's distracted isolation - I found it quite plausible that these two had an attraction for each other. This film offers a variety of content and substance. All that can happen if you give it a viewing is that you might learn more about the "Human Condition" Can that be such a bad thing?
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Kafka caught up in his own Kafkaesque Nightmare
Rich-9912 May 1999
Despite his bizarre literary output Franz Kafka lived a fairly mundane and normal life. "Kafka" is not a biography but a psychological thriller that puts Kafka in a real nightmare not unlike something he might have concocted. In brief people, miners from a particular town, are dying and their families paid insurance money. But have they died? If not what happened to them? This is the central mystery around which circulate anarchists, a sinister police inspector (brilliantly portrayed by Mueller Stahl), lost loves, totally different identical twins and a philosopher grave digger who knows more about less than anyone else. Snippets of situations from Kafka's novels are also ingeniously used in places. For reasons that will become apparent the film is in black and white and for a brief period in color. While it is a drama the tongue is delightfully in cheek for most of the film. Even if you do not know Kafka's writings you can enjoy the film on its own as a thriller. One of the more ingenious films of recent years that not only makes you think but provides a good time along the way.
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About an answer
Vincentiu24 December 2006
A good movie about a good man. A game with life's pieces and work's pieces, a story about a ghost. Kafka like character, more heroic, more strange and free. But who is Franz Kafka in this new space? A friend, a searcher, a victim? The film is only a view of a small world. Kafka is created like symbol and mark of a solitude who live in everybody. Is he the real "Castle"'s author? No! The problem is that: we seen the image of a film-maker about a great writer. Not his biography, not elements of his life, not a real life. Maybe, only a story of fear and sense. "Life is dream" is an old sign of normality. But for many people the dream is only way to believe that they lives. For me, Franz Kafka is the most important writer of the XXth century. Auschwitz, the Gulag, Pol Pot's crimes or September 11 are the pieces of his writings. The importance of this film is to create a answer at reality. The each people's reality. Is a good/ bad answer? Who cares?
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A thing of warped beauty
firstkyne17 February 2006
This is a strange creature: for a start, the first half is in black and white, then from a certain point the whole thing continues in colour. But more importantly, the real-life character of the writer, Kafka, has been bound up in an adventure story that he could have penned himself! The effect is of a whimsical, noire cartoon through which our hero stumbles, lost, for most of the time. But it is his bemused, everyday-ness which is his best defence against the hidden powers which are organised against him. In a way, it is disappointing when Kafka's paranoia is proved to be justified... the warped journey to this point is more fun than the pay-off. But this is a brave and playful film, at once terrifying and hilarious. The scene where the hero clumsily fights with an evil minion across the surface of huge magnifying glass, beneath which is a twitching, bloody brain undergoing maniacal experiments, is particularly bizarre, horrible and funny at the same time. 8/10
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ufotds9 July 2001
Last year in September, the IMF and the WB had a summit in Prague. They met in... the castle. Thousands of anarchists, communists, socialists and so on protested against the meeting. Trying to get in to the castle, they were stopped at the fortress wall, because nobody knew the passage trough that cemetery. Some of them protested violently, maybe like the anarchists in the movie. In the end over 900 people were arrested by the police and of most of them, their human rights were violated, some were tortured and sexually abused by the police.


Maybe writers like Kafka and George Orwell just understood and managed to describe the top of the iceberg of what happens in this world, but they definitely are closer to the truth than people who pretend that everything is all right.

Further i think this is a really good movie, really kafkaesque, really good camera and acting work, beautiful music and overall creepy as fack. It does make you think for sure.
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Marvelous performances, great atmosphere, beautiful soundtrack
CinefanR17 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This is human nature under a magnifying glass.

What an interesting cinematic experience... A memorable performance, as usual, by Jeremy Irons, whose trademark tormented restraint and meditative quietness make a compelling Kafka; the haunting, adequate cimbalom music with Romanian undertones; and the beautiful, mysterious Prague - these are only the first elements that get your attention. Mixing biographical detail with fiction is a clever trick, and the streets of Prague add a sense of claustrophobia and eeriness, enhanced by the black-and-white cinematography.

The movie may not ring "true to Kafka" to everyone - surely, that's impossible - but I found it commendable as a daring experiment. Novel adaptations are rarely satisfying, so of course, some Kafka readers may feel uncomfortable or disappointed. Steven Soderbergh, who has a penchant for The Absurd (the dazzling "Schizopolis" comes to mind), is clearly an admirer of Kafka's work, and this interpretation feels like a personal homage to the great writer. Despite some clumsiness in the dialogue here and there, which is its main weakness, that "Kafkaesque" dreamlike quality is clearly present all throughout.

Timeless exploration of the mind, filled with philosophical questions and sharp social commentary, "Kafka" ranks up there with the great "1984" and "Brazil".

Recommended to everybody, not just to those who enjoy the theater of the absurd or Kafka in particular.
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Not Merely a Dystopian Nightmare...
JayDog-228 December 1998
Kafka, beneath the simplistic veneer of a dystopian nightmare, is also at its heart a modern reworking and revisitation of the themes of the 19th century author Franz Kafka. The protagonist, Jeremy Irons in perfectly paranoiac form, is a walking amalgamation of both the writer and his favorite, recurrent characters. The film addresses the isolation, fear and loneliness of modern society, but moreover it is concerned with the fantasy underlying Kafka's moribund tales: what made the man Kafka the style "Kafka-esque" or, perhaps more importantly, what turns a human into an icon for himself. Were the movie simply a cautionary tale about an invasive society bereft of companionship, Kafka would be a tough watch. It is the playful lyricism of the movie, the flights of fancy, the superb acting and the careful attention to the details of Kafka's life and themes that make this movie a tribute to the writer worthy of his work.
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Doesn't match the genius of Kafka's work
CarsonTrent3 March 2006
Considering the fact that Franz Kafka's work seeing the light of day was a result of a broken promise, because he never wanted his work or his persona to be known to the world, and on his death bed asked a friend to burn all of his work(but which instead decided to publish it), one could consider this film a further invasion of his privacy, and in a sense a blasphemy(setting him in the middle of his own work he never wanted to be published). On the other hand the result is not as surreal and claustrophobic, in black and white, European style movie, not inflicting damage on Kafka's work, making him the lead character in the diluted adaptation of his novel "The Castle", and is in a sense a tribute to the genius of Kafka's work. There couldn't have been a better choice for the lead role, but perhaps Terry Gilliam would have been a better choice to direct.

Basically if you like the work of Kafka, you will like this movie, too, as it tries to capture the claustrophobic, surreal and absurd atmosphere of Kafka's work, although missing on the depth of it.
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TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews27 July 2009
I haven't read everything by Kafka, but I do love those of his novels I have taken in. And I am interested in what Soderbergh directs, though this is the first of them that has really taken me by storm(to be fair, the others are thus far limited to Erin Brockovich, Solaris and Ocean's Eleven, an unfortunate fact that I am trying to rectify). This has some incredible visuals, and the cinematography and editing are spectacular. The plot is engaging, interesting and develops throughout. This has masterfully done, intense and chilling sequences. The acting is perfect. All of the casting is spot-on, as well. This has astounding atmosphere and mood, and is immensely effective. It is not a Hollywood or mainstream experience, and if you are looking for something light or easy, this isn't it. I suggest that you find out as much as possible about Franz, his life and his written works(if you like them, this is a must-see for you, if you enjoy the medium of film at all), and try to avoid learning anything about the content of this prior to watching it. I recommend this to any and all fans of the author and/or Steven. 7/10
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I only write about nightmares you create them
sol12186 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
(There are Spoilers) Dark and depressing movie about man's fight to keep his individualism in a world run and controlled by faceless and unfeeling bureaucracies. Franz Kafka, Jeremy Irons, has been quietly working as a clerk for a major government insurance company for almost nine years with the only person that he ever had a social relationship with being fellow clerk Edward Raban,Vladimir Gut. Edward had been secretly an active member of a revolutionary group that the secret police have been tracking and ends up dead floating in the Danube River.

Kafka informed that Edward committed suicide by police official Gruback, Armin Mueller-Stahl, takes it upon himself to find out what really happened to his friend. Kafka gets in touch with Edward's girlfriend and fellow insurance clerk Gabriela, Theresa Russell, that has him ending up joining the anti-government group that the late Edward Raban and Gabriela are members of.

Being a strong proponent of individualism himself Kafka fits right in with Gabriela and her fellow revolutionaries and become involved in overthrowing the government that he works for. A government that has enslaved him and his fellow workers by taking away their right to think for themselves. Where they eventually end up as a mindless mass of brainwashed zombies loyally obedient to every command, as senseless and ridicules as it is, that those in power give them.

Kafka getting a promotion by his boss the chief clerk, Alac Guinness, that was supposed to go to his dead friend Edward. What he doesn't know is that he's being spied on by the two bumbling assistants that he's been assigned and that the government has already put him on their sh*t-list as a person who's ideas are dangerous to the state.

It's later when Gabriela is fired from her job that Kafka realizes that the government, through it's secret police, is on to both him and the revolutionary group that he and Gabriela are members of. Thats when trying to track her down he finds this secret morgue that the government uses to store the hundreds of bodies of undesirables that it secretly murdered. Giving them false death certificates claiming that their deaths were due to natural causes.

Determined to get to the bottom of what's going on Kafka makes his way into the Castle where all the records of everyone in the country are stored. It's there that he comes face to face with both the madman Dr. Murnau, Ian Holm,who runs the place and his biggest and most frightening nightmare.

In the end Kafka goes back to his job as government clerk knowing that he as an individual can never defeat the massive and faceless bureaucracy that runs his, and the peoples, life. But through the power of the pen he can put his thoughts and ideas on paper and hopefully, when published, that will galvanize the people to rise up and tear down the bureaucracy that has taken away his, and the peoples, will as well as heart and soul.

Franz Kafka would not live to see his 41th birthday dying on June 3, 1924. Unknown at the time of his death his writing have become the inspiration to many writers and philosophers over the years in informing the public about that dark cold and unfeeling world. A world that Kafka observed during his lifetime, 1883-1924, and was force to live and suffer in.
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