I’m watching a new film version of Kafka’s The Castle in a quiet, empty theater. The film is in black and white, and it’s rather grainy, but intentionally so, though possibly from a felicitous combination of low budget and artistic intent. The editing, however, is poor: abrupt cuts between long, static shots.
It’s a loose adaptation. K. is on a beach. In the first scene, he is buried under the sand near the water, only the top half of his head visible above the sand. He raises himself like a seal, throwing an inch of wet sand aside, and drags his detritus-laden body away from the water. We cut to the next scene, where he is now under a large mound of sand, now with only the top of his head visible, poking through the side of the mound. K. is farther away from the water, and in the distance I can see the disarrayed sand from the first scene, near the water. His head shakes and he pushes his head through the mound, and he manages to pull himself through and out of the mound, all the while grimacing and clenching his teeth from the effort. Covered in wet and dry sand, he stumbles away from the collapsed mound. Cut to the next scene, where he is still on the beach, even further away from the water, now lying underneath a large boulder. The stone is vaguely obelisk-shaped, much taller–at least eight feet–than it is wide, and stands straight on one end. Now K. is having a good deal more trouble; his entire head is out of the sand, but his body is trapped under the rock, and he’s making no progress at extricating himself, despite the obvious struggle. I have to feel for him.
In the theater, I think that while this film shares a certain high-contrast visual style with Orson Welles’s film of The Trial, it’s a much more faithful adaptation than Welles’s version. True in spirit, at least. I think that Welles did a masterful job of capturing the claustrophobic, interior spaces of The Trial, but he did not grasp the true depths of the book. I think that the case is the opposite with this film of The Castle: it has no evocative visuals, but it feels more faithful.