Le Procès (The Trial)

1962

Le Procès (The Trial)

Critics Consensus

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85%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 33

88%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,754
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Movie Info

Much of Orson Welles' latter-day reputation as an "unfathomable" genius rests upon his seeming unwillingness to tell a story in clear, precise fashion. Sometimes, as in such films as Touch of Evil, Welles' spotty storytelling skills can be forgiven in the light of the excellent visuals. In other cases, as in his 1962 adaptation of Kafka's The Trial, Welles'style comes across as empty virtuosity, precious and petulant when it should be profound. Anthony Perkins plays Joseph K, a man condemned for an unnamed crime in an unnamed country. Seeking justice, Joseph K is sucked into a labyrinth of bureaucracy (Welles once described the character as being a "little bureaucrat" himself, who deserves to be punished. This is never clearly expressed in the finished film). Along the way, he becomes involved with three women -- Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Elsa Martinelli -- who in their own individual ways are functions of the System that persecutes him. While Welles considered The Trial one of his finest films, this enthusiasm is not universally shared; even his most fervent admirers have been known to emerge from a screening of the film with quizzical, disappointed expressions on their faces. On the plus side, Welles and his cinematographer Edmond Richard perform miracles in transforming an abandoned French railway station into the headquarters of a totalitarian, red tape-ridden society. It's also fun to hear Welles' voice emanating from several of the supporting characters (his post-dubbing budget was nil). All in all, however, The Trial never truly works; it is unfair, however, to lay the blame for this entirely on Welles, inasmuch as the 1948 and 1994 attempts to cinematize the original Kafka novel likewise came a cropper.

Cast

Orson Welles
as Hastler, advocate, Hastler advocate
Jeanne Moreau
as Miss Burstner
Arnoldo Foà
as Inspector A
William Kearns
as 1st Assistant Inspector
Jess Hahn
as 2nd Assistant Inspector
Suzanne Flon
as Miss Pittl
Madeleine Robinson
as Mrs. Grubach
Wolfgang Reichmann
as Courtroom Guard
Thomas Holtzmann
as Bert, the Law Student
Max Haufler
as Uncle Max
Fernand Ledoux
as Chief Clerk
Maurice Teynac
as Deputy Manager
Max Buchsbaum
as Examining Magistrate
Jean-Claude Rémoleux
as 1st Policeman
Raoul Delfosse
as 2nd Policeman
Karl Studer
as Man in Leather
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Critic Reviews for Le Procès (The Trial)

All Critics (33) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (28) | Rotten (5)

Audience Reviews for Le Procès (The Trial)

  • Sep 22, 2014
    This fascinating existential nightmare is less Kafkaesque and more Wellesian, expanding physical spaces to amplify the character's feeling of smallness and impotence before a crushing judicial system and not focusing so much on the cynical gibe found in Kafka's novel.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • May 02, 2014
    Hastler: To be in chains is sometimes safer than to be free. I believed after reading Franz Kafka's The Trial, that filming a story such as this would be next to impossible, and after watching Orson Welles attempt, I see that this belief was justified. Welles may have done as good a job as possible at trying to bring an unfinished and surreal story such as The Trial to screen. However, it doesn't mean that the film is a success. Joseph K. works at a bank and is disturbed to find out that he is under arrest when two guards arrive at his room in the early morning. He isn't taken anywhere though, because they don't want to interfere with his personal, job life. They'll work the investigation around his schedule. When he asks what he is under arrest for, no one tells him. He's as confused by all this as the reader of the story, or in this case, the audience of the film is. I really enjoyed the book, but it's one of those stories that is pretty much impossible to grasp, especially being unfinished. Welles changes aspects of the book and leaves out some important elements of the book altogether. It just goes to show how challenging an exercise it would be to make a film adaption of The Trial, especially when someone like Orson Welles can't really do it justice.
    Melvin W Super Reviewer
  • May 17, 2013
    Orson Welles' adaptation of Franz Kafka's absurdist story wherein Joseph K wakes up one day and finds he's being arrested, but no one will tell him what the charge is. Deeply layered, THE TRIAL is simultaneously an absurdist parody of legal bureaucracy, a prophetic warning of rising totalitarianism, and an existential allegory about a word whose Creator has condemned everyone to death. Welles proves the right man for the job, turning Kafka's labyrinths into a maze of shadows and light.
    Greg S Super Reviewer
  • Feb 12, 2013
    Orson Welles, The Trial, is not at all a court room drama. It's a twisted dream like piece, in a poetic format. A film that's always on track, but that never makes sense. It's a study of human nature and us as a society. My favorite scene is when the protagonist Joseph, is being interrogated and asked almost as it it's obvious if he's victim of society. He responds in his highest form of confidence "I am a member of society". I think this isn't said at all anymore, everyone must be an individual and no one ever admits of being a contributing member of society. The basic outline of the story is Joseph is "arrested" with not charge, he then goes through an insane legal process. Comparable to the U.S. justice system in a way. This is my second favorite Orson Welles piece, after Touch Of Evil. The director believed this was his most accomplished film despite the critics early hatred. I could certianly see why this would be viewed as his strongest. In adapting Franz Kafka, it always feels made for cinema. He once again uses shadows and beautiful cinematic shots. With bizarre imagery of elderly waiting for a court ruling that'' never come, or a group of what we can assume are prisoners standing in the cold with nothing but rags. I can't complain to say understood all the metaphors, but I connected with the drift of ideas. Oliver who's played by Anthony Peck, still has Norman Bates characteristics. The queer like awkward man always feels nervous and uncomfortable. He strokes his hands along walls when he walks, and runs away from an awkward situation. He starts standing up for himself later on but is always much so of a coward. He critiques the others who are hopelessly waiting for there court result shouting "you don't see me doing it" while sub consciously trapping himself. A scene that demonstrates a kind of serfdom to the lawyers, is when we see a elderly pathetic man pleading to his. On his knees and kissing his hands only to be shunned away. Oliver looks in disgust and pity, but the man will do anything to here a word about his case. It's a disturbing scene and the one that can describe the movie the best, other than prologue. In conclusion this film is mesmerizing. It's a nightmare, with no true logic, but actual ideas. Similar to Kubricks, Eyes Wide Shut, an exposure to the inside of the system. Orson Welles narrates the closing credits, almost as a dog pees on his land, I think this his way of separating from the Kafka novel and claiming as a personal piece.
    Daniel D Super Reviewer

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