Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actor: Ulrich Muhe
Director: Michael Haneke
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Kino International Release Date: 08/21/2007 Run time: 123 minutes
Not So Kafkaesque
Liam Wilshire | Portland, OR | 09/01/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I can't speak for the wisdom of remaking FUNNY GAMES for an American audience, but that aside, Michael Haneke's films since THE PIANO TEACHER have steadily shown more daring. Haneke has attained the stature of a Welles: all of his work deserves to be seen, even his lesser work. Thanks to Kino, that is now almost completely achievable on home video.
THE CASTLE, made for Austrian TV, looks like a lot of European TV. It is shot in a much more conventional style than other Haneke films: more cross-cutting, shorter takes, more close-ups. It not only fails to give us the spatial sense of the novel, it can hardly be said to be production designed at all. Mostly, it is shot against nondescript backdrops.
Despite these constraints, THE CASTLE is an entertaining extract of Kafka's novel. It is wholly a Michael Haneke movie, while still spotlighting some aspects of Kafka that can easily get lost in the dense overgrowth of the author's prose. Among these things is the fact that Kafka, as we know from his diaries, was a fan of Chaplin. Ulrich Mühe, too old and too Gentile to be the K. of the novel, nevertheless captures the put-upon Everyman at the heart of the character. The Chaplinesque nature of K., as it turns out, was right there in the novel all along. The same goes with Dickens/Kafka connection. Simply by allowing supporting actors to show a bit of ham, Haneke keeps the proceedings lively and colorful in a way previously camouflaged by Kafka's style.
As a personal film by Haneke, everything remotely evoking psychological states or tending toward metaphor has been surgically removed. We never see the castle. We see the village once in a drawing on the door of the Inn, and that is underneath a sheet of newspaper that blows to reveal the drawing only when the door is opened. The messenger Barnabas doesn't appear all dressed in white, an important detail in the novel that motivates K. to believe he is more intimately connected to the castle than he is. He looks like what he is: the cobbler's son.
A MAN ESCAPED, by Robert Bresson (one of Haneke's acknowledged influences) is the likely model for the voice-over style of THE CASTLE. We hear the narrator relate events exactly as we are witnessing them. As with Bresson, it is an "alienation device" out of Brecht; like Bresson and Brecht, though, Haneke is, in spite of himself, too good a dramatist to keep us at arm's length for long.
THE CASTLE has previously been made into a very good film, in 1968. That version tried to smooth over the unfinished nature of the book, yet managed to capture its elliptical essence. Haneke's conceit is to dwell on the fragmentary aspects of the book, to the degree that he often cuts to black in the middle of scenes that are continuous in the novel. (!) Still and all, he has made the more accessible of the two adaptations. By fashioning his script as a twisted love story between K. and Frieda (the exceptional Susanne Lothar), he has embedded a familiar plot arc into an otherwise unresolved story. The result is an enjoyable film, and a unique critical take on one of the 20th century's great authors."
Cool film of a Cool book
W. T. Hoffman | Pennsylvania, United States | 03/04/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Kafka has always been one of my favorite authors. Up until now, i've only been able to view THE TRIAL by Orsen Wells, (a masterpiece), and KAFKA by Soderbergh (not a masterpiece.) THE CASTLE isnt as profound as Orsen Wells THE TRIAL, nor is it the strange metaphorical film that Soderburgh's film "KAFKA" is. Haneke's THE CASTLE falls somewhere in the middle of the two, leaning towards THE TRIAL, if only because it follows so closely Kafka's book. Haneke filmed this right after he made his (german version of) FUNNY GAMES, and used the same cast, as in FUNNY GAMES. K. is played by Ulrich Muhe, who not only played the father in FUNNY GAMES, but also starred as the Stazi officer in the recent hit THE LIVES OF OTEHRS. The mother from FUNNY GAMES plays FRIEDA, plus the two idiot assistances, are played by the two psychos from FUNNY GAMES. The actors had already achieved a strong working relationship with each other, and it shows in their strong ensemble acting in this film. Never for a moment, do you ask yourself, if these people are behaving artificially, or strangely, at least within the framework of the Castle's townspeople, who do things "differently around here." THE CASTLE is a comedy of course, a very dark comedy. Kafka would laugh while he would read passages aloud to his friends. Its a great credit to Haneke's direction, and his adaptation of the script from Kafka's book, that he caught this strange deadpan humor, and kept it intact. I admired this achievement, something that even Well's THE TRIAL was not really able to do.
The setting isnt the 1920s, as is the book, but rather modern day Austria. Utilizing modern clothing and sets, the backward, distopian Shangra-la cage of the town, which IS the Castle, is captured thru the art direction. Haneke constructed his 2 hour adaptation from the book, the best way possible. Key scenes are clipped intact from the book, with Kafka's narrative voiced over when nessacary, for all the internal thought going on in K.'s head. Somehow in the book, you always sense surreality, in the midst of the mondane. Again, that is captured too. Sometimes the naturalism of the sets reference BAUHAUS german cinema from the early 20s. (Like K's room he rented from the landlady, with all bizarre angles, and sharp corners). After the opening scene, when the Landsurveyor wanders lost into the Castle's little town, and enters the INN to rest until morning, the narrative's very close to the book's first 3 or 4 pages. Then, there is a black screen for a couple of moments, and the next scene appears. (I think it moves ahead 30 or 40 pages, to where K. meets Frida at the other Inn.) There is no way the density of kafka's book could EVER be filmed, since his writing follows a stream of conscousness type narritive from K.'s mind. Everything is overanalyzed, which is never dramatic. Instead, dramatic intensity is maintained by jumping between the book's Key moments. None seem missed. Maybe the ONLY criticism i have, was when K. tries to phone the Castle himself. In one of the most mysterious, frightening, and surreal passages of world literature, he picks up the phone, and hears the cries of thousands of children, screaming at the highest pitch imaginable, while smothered in layers of thick white noise. At this point in the film, INSTEAD of hearing this sound (i so wanted to hear it), the voice over discribes it from the book. Then again, perhaps that was a wise choice, since no sound could match the mystery of that passage. Where MYSTERY abounds, mystery remains. Haneke isnt filming the book, just illustrating passages thru cinema. In this context of a book where plot is replaced by K's slippery downward spiral, flashes of recognition suffice.
By utilizing a normal Austrian small town, the viewer accepts the bizarre castle society as NORMAL. Kafka's genius views normal life in a funhouse mirror, while denying such a mirror exists. Kafka always satirized his world of constant documentation, thru laws within laws about laws, and thru secondary documents assuring that the primary documents were documented correctly. We all live in K.'s world. In the modern telecommunications of the 20th century, what government (or Castle) could ever be reached, for a straight answer? (This theme is the motor behind THE TRIAL too, of course. In K's world, YOU ARE GUILTY, and YOU CAN NOT ESCAPE. YOU CAN HOPE, if you remember ITS HOPELESS TO HOPE, etc.) THe entire plot structure is one of confusion, of changing situations at the drop of a hat, of labrarynths of roads that lead nowhere, of an unapproachable CASTLE, that controls and runs the lives of all the people, etc. Haneke caught that mood as well, one of exasperation, frustration, and futile defiance against a system that can not change. After two hours of K.'s futile attempts to discover the truth about his LAND SURVEYOR job, while his personal situation deteriorates, you start to wonder, WHEN DOES IT END? Of course, what can Haneke do, with a book that had never been finished, before Kafka died of TB? In the book, there are a few fragments, tacked to the end of the manuscript. The film uses one of them, and ends mid paragraph, with as much mystery and non conclusiveness, as most our lives end. ( Maybe its Kafka's conscious style, cos THE TRIAL has no ending, nor does AMERIKA.) All of the absurdity, humor, mystery, surreality, cruelty, existencial angst, and so on, which makes the book such a masterpiece of world literature, translates into the film. What more can a cinematic adaptation of such an abstract, lumbering giant of a book do? I enjoy Haneke's films, but THE CASTLE outranks his best work. This film adaptation introduces people not only to KAFKA's work, but also the work of key figures in the German acting community, and a key director in modern world cinema. If you love KAFKA, if you LIKE KAFKA, or if you hate KAFKA but are totally controlled by modern bureucracy, you will LOVE THIS FILM. Now, if David Lynch films THE METAMORPHOSIS, I'll die happy."