Sunday, February 24, 2013

Haneke's Castle

I had tons more fun watching Michael Haneke's film adaptation of The Castle (first shown on German television in 1996) because I had recently read Roberto Calasso's opinions about Franz Kafka's elusive, everlasting significance in the book called (simply) K. The film stayed much closer to the text than I expected, with voice-over reading canonical passages of some length while silent figures on screen functioned much like full-page illustrations used to function in novels published long ago. It felt as if Haneke had voluntarily restrained his usual rambunctious inventiveness, intent instead on paying unadorned tribute to Kafka.   

I had not been aware that Haneke cast Ulrich Mühe in the role of K. And what a complicated, unpredictable yet convincing performance this actor gave in that role. He became internationally famous ten years later starring as an East German surveillance officer in the German-made Hollywood-style thriller released in English as The Lives of Others and winner of the 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Mühe's performance was the one redeeming feature of that reductive, inadequate film. I also had not known that he died of stomach cancer only a few days after making the journey back and forth from Germany to California for the award ceremony.