The Trial (1962)

A man stands in a hallway with a warped perspective showing several different dimensions of himself on the cover of the movie The Trial
The Criterion Collection cover for the 1962 movie The Trial, directed by Orson Welles.
About the movie
  • Director: Orson Welles
  • Starring: Anthony Perkins, Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider
  • Yes or no?: Yes
  • Links: on Letterboxd, IMDb page
Other reviews:

This review may contain spoilers.

I avoided this for a while. There were a couple reasons, all of which added up to avoidance because I was afraid I wouldn’t get it. I read the book, admittedly half-assedly, so not really at all, a couple decades ago. I remembered enough about it to get the main point without much nuance. It was also a super intriguing concept, and I was drawn to Kafka after The Metamorphosis already. So, this has always stuck with me as something to explore more deeply.

This movie’s 4k Criterion release was among the first things I bought in the collection. Orson Welles and this source seemed like a really nice fit from the standpoint that Citizen Kane featured some cool camera work, and that could lead to some surreal-looking sets. I knew from some reading about the movie that the perspective is wonky throughout. The camerawork paired with this sounded cool. What all of this means is that I kind of wanted the perfect scenario to watch the movie—plenty of time to watch without interruption, the right mood to digest something I need to really pay attention to, etc. I finally got to the point that I had to let that go, so I started the thing today.

I will have to watch again soon to understand the many different small clues and tricks the language delivers. It was dense from the start with all the patterns we fall into, like making assumptions and answering with just a bit too much information. They’re all out loud throughout the movie. It will mean a lot more to me upon another watch.

Anthony Perkins was oddly happy in many parts of the movie. Like, joyful. I don’t feel like it fit the rest of the mood that was set, but I have no doubt that I missed things that will shift that understanding.

A couple of set pieces were outstanding. The office set, is an obvious pick. I also thought there was at least one long shot with tracking in the opening apartment scene. Like it was one scene in a play that was all one take with a nice track built in.

I liked it quite a bit, and will be watching again very soon. Orson Welles was a total presence as a character, but was a nice fit for the source. It felt like Welles doing Kafka.

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November 24, 2023
Tags: criterion collection
Categories: Reviews