Das Schlo▀ (The Castle) Reviews
I've grown to love Haneke, but I just couldn't bring myself to finish this one. I made it thirty minutes in and maybe one day I'll revisit it with optimism. But I was really, really underwhelmed. But mostly disappointed.
This adaptation kept true to the novel in a sense that the editorial add-on was not included, so the film, like Kafka's version, was unfinished. The cold grittiness of Kafka's world was illustrated with intense snowstorm shots and stoic furnishings. A successful film in how it achieved the bureaucratic obscurity (potent Kafka theme) but due to its incomplete nature, I cannot accurate rate this.
Made in the same year as Haneke's seminal Funny Games (1997), Haneke dropped the brutal side of humanity for the more confusing world of Kafka. Telling the story of a newly appointed Landscape Surveyor (Ulrich M├╝he) who tries to get to the bottom of a small village's disdain towards simplicity and solve the mystery of The Castle, an unknown structure that seems to hold all law and order over the town. The Surveyor is not alone in his work, he is accompanied by two Twiddle-dee and Twiddle-dum assistants who prove do be more of a task to escape from than anything, a barmaid with serious emotional issues (a Haneke staple), and a colorful cast of weirdo locals. The Surveyor goes from house to house, trying to make his living in the most confusing of towns. Think of it as Twin Peaks without the murder mystery, soap opera tone, and funky dreams.
Although it did not have any real correlation to Haneke's favorite topic of discussion, the media, Haneke trades this for human interaction. Although the use of technology is highly limited in this village, everyone seems to know what each other is doing, as if everyone's lives were creepily intertwined with each other. Haneke still does employ the long static takes in this film, although there are quite a few nice long tracking shots through the snowy landscape of this village. The locales are beautiful and rustic, less is more considering that the main character's sole purpose in the story is to survey the land, yet he winds up not doing any of this. The characters are very well-played, featuring Haneke regulars Ulrich M├╝he and Susanna Lothar, who reprise their Funny Games roles as a couple. It also features Frank Giering who played the silently brutal "Peter" in Funny Games, substituting his disturbing qualities for comical incompetence. Along with a few other actors from Haneke's previous works, the cast is great.
The length of this film passes two hours, which is interesting considering Kafka's novel was never finished (the book itself ends in mid-sentence), but Haneke's way of depicting this highly ambiguous ending is quite masterful. The plot seems to have some sort of resolution, but leaves you wanting more, however, it is tragically cut short and left all a mystery, exactly like the novel. This is achieved through great use of narration, where the unseen narrator will describe what we are seeing as if the film was the book itself, sometimes even talking over the characters' dialogue, giving it authentic feel.
Although it was not an original Haneke story, his approach towards Kafka's story is well-done, yet this is probably his most overlooked film due to the fact that it is not his own.
K., the man who may or may not have been hired as the Castle's official land surveyor, pivots between indifferent authority and those who swoon and shudder under his own inexplicable influence. Under winter light, Haneke stages perfectly paced portraits in mortification which reveal God's mystery, His mirth, and Kafka's incomplete though timeless ambition.