Josef K. (Anthony Perkins)

It begins with a story about a man who came seeking admittance to the law. The guard at the gate won’t let him pass. The man waits into his old age only to find that the door is going to be closed. He wonders why nobody else had come seeking admittance. The guard tells him that the door was meant only for him. It’s like a nightmare which Josef K. (Anthony Perkins) awakens to find himself trapped. Several men enter his room to tell him that he has been charged with a crime, but he isn’t told the charges. What follows is a trip down the rabbit hole.

Where Josef Works (Reminiscent of Vidor’s The Crowd)

Josef Before The Interrogation Commission

Josef begins to go about his work, figure out what charges have been brought against him, and what he can do about it. What begins as rather normal becomes an overwhelming visual and psychological prison. Director Orson Welles creates abandoned landscapes, claustrophobic shadows, and perverted relationships that create an inescapable labyrinth for Josef K.

Abandoned Landscapes

Claustrophobic Shadows

Perverted Relationships

One of the most striking features of the film is Welles’ use of camera angles. A level shot is rare and along with the lighting everything is given a dreamlike quality. The casting of Perkins is also pitch perfect because wherever he goes, his height and boyish good looks make him stand out in the sea of the masses as much as he does in a room with Welles himself.

This is a scary film, not just because of the haunting atmosphere, but because the world in this film is one in which everyone is kept in fear of the state through the law. A world that isn’t just a nightmare, but to one extent or another, a reality for everyone. In my opinion, this film is second only to Citizen Kane as Welles’ finest film. I highly recommend it.