Thursday, July 19, 2012

Film review--Who Was Kafka?


WHO WAS KAFKA?

This is an innovative documentary about the life and work of Franz Kafka, one of the greatest writers in history.  What we have are actors portraying four or five key figures in Kafka's life, giving "speculative interviews."  I'm still not sure how I feel about that aspect of the film, questioning its accuracy and such.  But then it's not much different from "literary nonfiction" and if it has its roots in actual letters and diary entries, it probably isn't too far off of the mark.

Here's a newsflash: Kafka was odd.  He was eccentric.  One could probably ascertain that simply by reading Kafka books such as The Metamorphosis and The Trial (for a review of The Metamorphosis click here.)  One might also infer that his private life was one of strain and inner torment.  True.  So much so that it actually hit a bit closer to home than I would have liked.

Here was this writer who had "father issues" into adulthood.  He worked a day job in an office that he viewed as hell because it kept him from writing.  In fact, he saw it as a "perfect hell" for no one else would have viewed it as such.  It seemed designed just for him.  He saw much of life as artifice and shallow.  Though he had loves, he came to see them as "enemies" of his writing.  The two could not seem to coexist as he valued literature above all. 

Again, the weakest aspect of the film comes from actors portraying the actual people.  All except for Kafka himself, that is to say.  Now I realize we can't bring the actual players involved back from the great beyond, but Kafka scholars, existentialist thinkers, and even other writers and artists who were influenced by him would have been better choices.  Nary a soul of those just described appeared in the film.  Perhaps the producers should have taken the direction chosen for William Burroughs and A Man Within.

That aside, I do not regret my time spent watching this documentary.  I feel that it did give me a bit of a closer insight into the man who was Kafka.  For I feel even more kindred to him now.  His books were not dreamscapes but nightmares.  He saw the world clearly, more clearly perhaps than anyone save for Burroughs.  The world was apparent to him in such terrifying lucidity that he could only write...and then die.


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