HAPPY 130th BIRTHDAY, FRANZ! ( Kafka meets Welles in “The Trial” )


Orson Welles: “What made it possible for me to make the picture is that I’ve had recurring nightmares of guilt all my life: I’m in prison and I don’t know why –- going to be tried and I don’t know why.

The Trial - eyes

“It’s very personal for me.  A very personal expression, and it’s not all true that I’m off in some foreign world that has no application to myself; it’s the most autobiographical movie that I’ve ever made, the only one that’s really close to me.

The Trial Welles directing Perkins

Directing Anthony Perkins

“And just because it doesn’t speak in a Middle Western accent doesn’t mean a damn thing. It’s much closer to my own feelings about everything than any other picture I’ve ever made.”

The Trial - Perkins and screen:

The Trial - title

NARRATOR (at opening of film):

Before the law, there stands a guard.

The Trial - Prison door

A man comes from the country, begging admittance to the law.

The Trial - door

But the guard cannot admit him.

The Trial - man blocking door

May he hope to enter at a later time? That is possible, said the guard. The man tries to peer through the entrance.

The Trial = people

He’d been taught that the law was to be accessible to every man.


“Do not attempt to enter without my permission”, says the guard. I am very powerful. Yet I am the least of all the guards. From hall to hall, door after door, each guard is more powerful than the last.”

The Trial Perkins in office

The Trial - the trial

By the guard’s permission, the man sits by the side of the door, and there he waits. For years, he waits.

The Trial - perkins

Everything he has, he gives away in the hope of bribing the guard, who never fails to say to him “I take what you give me only so that you will not feel that you left something undone.”

The Trial - Perkins w: piantings 2

The Trial - perkins and Schneider

The trial - walking outside

The Trial - Perkins in trial

Keeping his watch during the long years, the man has come to know even the fleas on the guard’s fur collar. Growing childish in old age, he begs the fleas to persuade the guard to change his mind and allow him to enter.

The Trial - Perkins in slits

His sight has dimmed, but in the darkness he perceives a radiance streaming immortally from the door of the law.

the trial-cathedral

And now, before he dies, all he’s experienced condenses into one question, a question he’s never asked. He beckons the guard. Says the guard, “You are insatiable! What is it now?” Says the man, “Every man strives to attain the law. How is it then that in all these years, no one else has ever come here, seeking admittance?”

The Trial perkins at prison door

His hearing has failed, so the guard yells into his ear. “Nobody else but you could ever have obtained admittance. No one else could enter this door!

The Trial - man blocking prison door

This door was intended only for you! And now, I’m going to close it.”

The Trial closed door

This tale is told during the story called “The Trial”. It’s been said that the logic of this story is the logic of a dream… a nightmare.

The Trial -- running in tunnel

Kafka by Warhol

“Franz Kafka” by Andy Warhol (1980)