In Existentialism this evening, we watched Orson Wells’ 1962 film The Trial (based on a book of the same title published by Kafka in 1925). There are a lot of things to pay attention to during the film; most students simply focus on the similarities between the book and the film. Me? Here are some of the questions I walked away with:
- The only background music of the film is jazz and orchestral. Most instances when jazz music is played, it is what we would today call “soft” or “easy-listening jazz.” (There is one instance when electronic jazz is played but the purpose and effect really is just to heighten the sense of movement and chaos).
– Could you distinctly categorize the instances when jazz music is used and when orchestral music is played?
- Note the use of vertical and horizontal lines and shadows in the film (mostly through the use of structural beams).
– What is the significance of characters who break these lines, and the moments when they break them?
- When Josef K exits the law courts (for the first time), he closes his eyes and feels his way to the door. Why? Was this an artistic choice, or is there deeper meaning to be found here (that one cannot escape the reason or rationality of law with reason, but only with instinct or feeling?)
- Does man come to the doorstep of the law seeking admittance by his own free will?
- In The Trial, is there an actual difference between the accused and the condemned, or are the accused for all intents and purposes the same as condemned? – K (the Accused) is treated as if he is already condemned except that he has freedom of movement.
- What is The Advocate’s relation to Justice?
- Would Camus consider Kafka’s idea of the Accused man with his conception of the Absurd Man and the Condemned Man?
- Is Mr. K free is his last moments?
I asked my professor if there was any significance to music choices, and he replied that he had never considered it. Conversing with some of my other classmates after class, I brought up some of these other questions and realized how obscure some of them are, but how interesting some others may be.
These questions are really just my thoughts on a page. Perhaps I’ll incorporate these questions into a later existentialism paper on the major themes of the course that most of “the” Existential philosophers contemplate. But if there is a point to this brief post (which is truthfully a diversion from other work), it is that I notice some obscure, minute details – in films, in novels, in the conversations I have with friends. I think it makes things more interesting, more fun to argue, and more fruitful to consider.