Orsen Wells: The Trial (1962)


The Trial (1962) is a drama film directed by Orson Welles, who also wrote the screenplay based on the novel of the same name by Franz Kafka. Filmed in Europe, Welles stated immediately after completing the film: “The Trial is the best film I have ever made”. The film begins with Welles narrating Kafka’s parable “Before the Law” to pinscreen scenes created by the artist Alexandre Alexeieff. Anthony Perkins stars as Josef K., a bureaucrat who is accused of a never-specified crime, and Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, and Elsa Martinelli play women who become involved in various ways in Josef’s trial and life. Welles plays the Advocate, Josef’s lawyer and the film’s principal antagonist.

The Trial has grown in reputation over the years, and some critics, including Roger Ebert, have called it a masterpiece. It is often praised for its scenic design and cinematography, the latter of which includes disorienting camera angles and unconventional use of focus.


Josef K. (Anthony Perkins) is sleeping in his bedroom, in an apartment he shares with other lodgers. He is awakened when a man in a suit opens his bedroom door. Josef assumes the glib man is a policeman, but the intruder does not identify himself and ignores Josef’s demand to produce police ID. Several detectives enter and tell Josef he is under open arrest. In another room Josef K. sees three co-workers from his place of employment; they are there to provide evidence regarding some unstated crime. The police refuse to inform Josef K. of his misdeeds, or if he is even being charged with a crime, and they do not take him into custody.

After the detectives leave, Josef converses with his landlady, Mrs. Grubach (Madeleine Robinson), and neighbor, Miss Bürstner (Jeanne Moreau), about the strange visit. Later he goes to his office, where his supervisor thinks he has been having improper relations with his teenaged female cousin. That evening, Josef attends the opera, but is abducted from the theater by a police inspector (Arnoldo Foà) and brought to a courtroom, where he attempts in vain to confront the still-unstated case against him.

Josef returns to his office and discovers the two police officers who first visited him being whipped in a small room. Josef’s uncle Max suggests that Josef consult with Hastler (Orson Welles), a law advocate. After brief encounters with the wife of a courtroom guard (Elsa Martinelli) and a roomful of condemned men awaiting trial, Josef is granted an interview with Hastler, which proves unsatisfactory.

Hastler’s mistress (Romy Schneider) suggests that Josef seek the advice of the artist Titorelli (William Chappell), but this also proves unhelpful. Seeking refuge in a cathedral, Josef learns from a priest (Michael Lonsdale) that he has been condemned to death. Hastler abruptly appears at the cathedral to confirm the priest’s assertion.

On the evening before his thirty-first birthday, Josef is apprehended by two executioners and brought to a quarry pit, where he is forced to remove some of his clothing. The executioners pass a knife back and forth, apparently deliberating on who will do the deed, before handing the knife to the condemned man, who refuses to commit suicide. The executioners leave Josef in the quarry and toss dynamite in the pit. Josef laughs at his executioners and picks up the dynamite. From a distance one can hear an explosion and smoke billows into the air.


Anthony Perkins - Josef K.
Jeanne Moreau - Marika Burstner
Romy Schneider - Leni
Elsa Martinelli - Hilda
Suzanne Flon - Miss Pittl
Orson Welles - Albert Hastler, The Advocate
Akim Tamiroff - Bloch
Madeleine Robinson - Mrs. Grubach
Paola Mori - Court archivist
Arnoldo Foà - Inspector A
Fernand Ledoux - Chief Clerk of the Law Court
Michael Lonsdale - Priest
Max Buchsbaum - Examining Magistrate
Max Haufler - Uncle Max
Maurice Teynac - Deputy Manager
Wolfgang Reichmann - Courtroom Guard
Thomas Holtzmann - Bert the law student
Billy Kearns - First Assistant Inspector
Jess Hahn - Second Assistant Inspector
Naydra Shore- Irmie, Joseph K.’s cousin
Carl Studer - Man in Leather
Jean-Claude Rémoleux - Policeman #1
Raoul Delfosse - Policeman #2
William Chappell - Titorelli




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