In his early journals, Czech writer Franz Kafka wrote frequently about his fascination with the cinema. According to Hanns Zischler, who examined Kafka's diaries and letters in his book and film of the same name, Kafka Goes to the Movies, these accounts stopped suddenly and without explanation in 1913. This program explores the many attempts since that time to adapt Kafka's writing for the screen and chronicle the relationship, imaginary or genuine, between the acclaimed writer and a revolutionary new medium.
This program is co-presented by the Boston Jewish Film Festival.
This program is presented in collaboration with the American Repertory Theatre. The A.R.T. presents Amerika, a production based on the novel by Franz Kafka, which runs June 18-July 10, 2005.
June 24 (Friday) 7 pm
June 26 (Sunday) 9:15 pm
Directed by Piotr Dumala
Poland, 1992, b/w, 15 min.
Using Kafka's diaries, letters, and novels, Polish animator Piotr Dumala provides a unique interpretation of the life of the famed writer. Using photos shot by Kafka himself, Dumala documents the writer's creative birth as well as his descent into isolation.
Directed by Tom Gibbons
US, 2002, color, 16 min.
The Hunger Artist is a performer whose art is determined by his refusal to eat. Animator Tom Gibbons uses stop-motion a effect to give eerie life to one of Kafka's most famed short stories.
Directed by Hanns Zischler
France/Germany, 2002, 54 min.
French with English subtitles
While working on a television movie project about Franz Kafka, German actor Hanns Zischler discovered a series of passionate writings in Kafka's journals about his own moviegoing. Zischler, who also wrote a book of the same title, spent the next twenty-five years combing through archives and libraries to locate many of the now-extinct films cited by Kafka in his journals. The result is a witty conjecture on the Czech writer's fascination with film and Zischler's fascination with Kafka.
June 24 (Friday) 9 pm
June 26 (Sunday) 7 pm
Directed by Orson Welles
France/ Italy/ West Germany, 1962, b/w, 118 min.
With Anthony Perkins, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider
Hailed upon its release as a masterpiece by European critics but dismissed as a failure by the British and American press, The Trial is arguably Welles's finest film after Citizen Kane (and with Kane, the only other film over which he exercised complete creative control). Welles's rendition of Franz Kafka's nightmarish story of a man arrested for a crime that is never explained to him features Anthony Perkins as Josef K., a twitchy individual pursued by a repressive bureaucracy, obsessed by an undefined guilt, and bewildered by the burden of living. With its jazz soundtrack, shadowy black-and-white cinematography, angled close-ups, and labyrinthine spaces, Welles's Trial gives cinematic expression to Kafka's complex parable of contemporary existence.
June 25 (Saturday) 7 pm
June 27 (Monday) 7 pm
Directed by Caroline Leaf
Canada, 1977, color, 10 min.
Gregor Samsa experiences an unimaginable transformation in Kafka's most famous story. Caroline Leaf brings Kafka's world of alienation and guilt to life using an innovative sand-on-glass technique, sepia-toned imagery, and an imaginative soundtrack.
Directed by Valeri Fokin
Russia, 2002, color, 90 min.
With Yevgeni Mironov, Igor Kvasha, Tatyana Lavrova
Russian with English subtitles
Acclaimed Russian theater director Valeri Fokin offers a unique take on one of Kakfa's greatest short stories. Yevgeni Mironov stars as Gregor Samsa, the mild-mannered clerk who awakens to find himself transformed into a giant insect. Without the aid of special effects or outlandish makeup and costuming, Fokin succeeds in constructing a compelling and plausible transformation thanks in large part to a strong performance from Mironov. Fokin's sensitivity to the story's exploration of class tensions in early 1900s Prague is just as telling in the post-Soviet Russian era.
June 25 (Saturday) 9 pm
June 27 (Monday) 9 pm
Directed by Shoja Azari
US/Morocco, 2002, b/w, 85 min.
With Mohammed Ghaffari, Oz Phillips, Rick Poli
Iranian-American multimedia artist Shoja Azari adapts three Kafka stories (The Married Couple, In the Penal Colony, A Fratricide) in his first feature film. Although shot in stark black and white, the film succeeds in conveying Kafka's often twisted sense of humor. Azari also makes the unconventional choice to recast the same actors in all three stories, blurring the boundaries between each segment's distinct cinematic space. In the face of such downbeat events as salesmen probing a man on his deathbed, Azari's sly wit overcomes the potentially devastating impact of these provocative images.
June 28 (Tuesday) 7 pm
June 29 (Wednesday) 9 pm
Directed by Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet
France/ West Germany, 1984, b/w, 126 min.
With Christian Heinisch, Laura Betti, Mario Adorf
German with English subtitles
Amerika, Kafka's unfinished novel about corruption and moral bankruptcy in the United States, provides the basis for one of Straub and Huillet's most critically acclaimed works. Karl Rossmann, a middle class German, accepts his uncle's offer to come to New York. Upon his arrival, he is immediately presumed guilty until proven innocent, yet proceeds on a journey throughout the country. Straub and Huillet's trademark minimalism is particularly evident in the subdued performances of their actors, which, in themselves, provide an interesting commentary on American enthusiasm.
June 28 (Tuesday) 9:15 pm
June 29 (Wednesday) 7 pm
Directed by Jaromil Jires
Czechoslovakia, 1991, color, 90 min.
With Maximilian Schell, Christopher Chaplin, Vlastimil Brodsky
German with English subtitles
Labyrinth is an intellectually bracing investigation of the connection between the fictional world of Franz Kafka and the historical persecution of the Jews that culminated in the Holocaust. Framing his intense drama with recitations of the human rights denied to Jews under the Third Reich, veteran Czech director Jires creates his alter ego in Maximilian Schell, who plays a director taking up residence in Prague to prepare a film about Kafka. Christopher Chaplin, son of Charlie Chaplin, plays Kafka.