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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

Film Review: The Trial (1962)

Anthony Perkins as Josef K in “The Trial” (1962).

The Trial follows a man in a puzzling situation: being accused of a crime that he doesn’t know. Josef K (Anthony Perkins) is awoken by both police and fellow workers of his job where he’s immediately questioned. Why is he being questioned? Of what crime is he being charged? Is he even guilty of the accusation presented? It’s up to you to figure that out in this almost fantastical drama that director Orson Welles constructed.

There’s something strange about this film that I can’t put my finger on. The story itself is a serious drama, but the display offers something to the contrary. The presentation is the center stage for this flick as it provokes a dreamlike feeling where there’s nothing that fits the norm. In the very beginning, the police show up in K’s room uninvited, then to his office building where two men are being beaten in a closet. There’s even a scene where there’s a group of people almost naked that have numbers displayed on the front of their chest which can only be compared to how slaves would be auctioned. The film provokes absurdism where you can’t really place it in any other setting that’s not its own, which is a compliment.

But what might be even stranger is the protagonist that’s supposed to carry the story. Josef K is a shy and almost cowardly man. Even when he was young, he would admit to committing wrongdoings that he didn’t do. But, in regard to the accusation, you feel as though he’s guilty of something.

From the way he twitches his eyes to how his hands constantly have to fold themselves to avoid looking uncomfortable, there seems to be something amiss that the audience just doesn’t know. Like a joke that everyone gets besides us. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s how the authorities see it as they continue to question his every action.

However, this strange way of telling the story can be a bit dry at times. When every scene displays a distinct level of oddity, it can become desensitizing to the eyes. Masters of surrealism (e.g. David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman, etc.) can mix both the bizarre and the normal so that you can be engaged by the story and shocked by the unorthodox.

The Trial, on the other hand, goes so far with surrealism that you almost forget what the point of it all is or why you should care about Josef’s predicament. After watching the movie twice, I can’t say for certain that I enjoyed this movie, but it definitely wasn’t one I regret watching. The movie tells a strong theme of the absurdity in the justice system but engages too much in the crazy factor that you are indifferent to it at the end of the day.

If anything, it was carried by a fantastic performance from Anthony Perkins and amazing cinematography (this is Orson Welles, after all). Even the mystery of what was happening can be engaging depending on how much you’re invested. It was a ride. A slow, sometimes monotonous one, but a ride, nonetheless. 3/5

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