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Movie Review - The Trial (1962 - France)

Updated on March 11, 2012

The claustrophobic paranoia of a future completely delimitated by faceless bureaucrats may not sound like a great idea for a picture, but this very strange and wonderful film (based on an unfinished novel by Franz Kafka) proves that it can work quite well, at least in the hands of Orson Welles. Welles had total control over this picture, which is a situation shared only by his Citizen Kane , and it was also not “polished” by others, as were all of his other films, from which pieces were snipped away from Welles’ director’s cut or moved around in ways allegedly intended to make them more accessible, but which, over time, we’ve come to appreciate has had the opposite effect.

Waytch the trailer:

The result is that The Trial can be judged not only on its own merits, as a piece of cinematic storytelling, but also as one of only two extant examples of Welles’ artistic vision. It is a tribute to this movie that it holds up well under such intense scrutiny, where it is expected to be not just a good movie, but a masterpiece., an expectation very few films have had to endure.

In The Trial , a very young Anthony Perkins plays the drone accused of some never-explained crime, and we watch his perplexity morph into justifiable rage—the classic Kafka theme. There is an amazing scene filmed inside a cavernous abandoned train station—which Welles filled with hundreds of identical steel desks and typewriters, with an extra at each desk typing away—the echoing clatter of it is haunting and nightmarish, one of those enduring images from film that we really wish we could forget. The Trial is unlike any movie you've ever seen, because it is, quite simply, unique.

Recommended without reservation or disclaimer as simply an amazing film.

Copyright © Roberta Lee 2012. All rights reserved.

(I am an artist and the author of the Suburban Sprawl series of novels as well as two nonfiction books. Find out more about my work at

Genre: Drama, Art House & International, Mystery & Suspense, Classics, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Rated: Unrated

Running Time: 1 hr. 58 min.

In Theaters: Dec 21, 1962

On DVD: Feb 7, 2006

Distributor: Gibraltar Films

Directed By: Orson Welles

Written By: Orson Welles


Anthony Perkins - Josef K.

Jeanne Moreau - Miss Burstner

Romy Schneider - Leni

Suzanne Flon - Miss Pittl

Elsa Martinelli - Hilda

Akim Tamiroff - Bloch

Madeleine Robinson - Mrs. Grubach

Orson Welles - Hastler advocate

Michel Lonsdale - Priest

What do you think of Orson Welles?

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    • DIYmyOmy profile image

      DIYmyOmy 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Orson Welles is best known for his Citizen Kane, which is often cited as the best movie ever made; if you have seen that movie, what is your opinion?