SIX OF THE BEST #28 – KAFKAESQUE FILM NARRATIVES!

SIX OF THE BEST #28 – KAFKAESQUE FILM NARRATIVES!

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, to describe a book or film or life situation as Kafkaesque relates to:

Franz Kafka (1883-1924) – a Czech-born German-language writer whose surreal fiction vividly expressed the anxiety, alienation, and powerlessness of the individual in the 20th century. Kafka’s work is characterized by nightmarish settings in which characters are crushed by nonsensical, blind authority. Thus, the word Kafkaesque is often applied to bizarre and impersonal administrative situations where the individual feels powerless to understand or control what is happening.”

Moreover, it especially relates to characters and events which could be described as:

“. . . relating to, or suggestive of Franz Kafka or his writings, especially having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality.”

Such narratives are abundant throughout cinema history and in this occasional strand I would like to suggest six of the best films which could be described as ‘Kafkaesque.’ Interestingly, I have not selected the purer surrealist work of say David Lynch or Luis Bunuel, but concentrated on films dominated by characters utterly lost to a nightmarish fate, bureaucracy or a scenario entirely not of their making. I guess one could draw parallels with the world’s current situation in regard to COVID-19, as many of us have found ourselves powerless and at the mercy of bureaucracy, sickness and unknown external forces. However, I am not going to dwell on that; just keep going and hope we all get through safely to the other side of it.



AFTER HOURS (1985)


THE HUNT (2012)


I, DANIEL BLAKE (2016)


NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)


THE TENANT (1976)


THE TRIAL (1962)

6 thoughts on “SIX OF THE BEST #28 – KAFKAESQUE FILM NARRATIVES!”

  1. Fascinating! I love this post. I totally agree about The Tenant. The book by Roland Topor is also very reminiscent of Kafka. I thought Tati’s Playtime had notes of it, but it is not probably in relation to the character as such. The main character in Lanthimos’s The Lobster also goes through something totally absurd, but taking it in his stride. My other suggestions will be Italian film The Stranger with Marcello Mastroianni based on Albert Camus’s novel, and Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Woman in the Dunes and The Face of Another.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and the excellent recommendations. I haven’t seen The Stranger but have read the book many times.
      Interesting you mention the Lobster – that film is totally absurd, although at least the character has some element of choice. Although he is trapped by a strange “romantic” convention in said society. So that does make it very Kafkaesque too. Of course metamorphosis to an animal cements that idea.

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  2. Great examples 🙂 Love seeing Orson Welles 1962 adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial on there (always refreshing to see others note Welles for something other than Citizen Kane). Intriguing to see Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake on the list as well. Do you consider Joel and Ethan Coen’s Barton Fink to be a contender as well? 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. HI John, thanks for commenting so positively as usual. Yes, I love the look and atmosphere of The Trial. The set designs are something else too.

    Barton Fink would certainly be in the realms of Kafkaesque dramas although Barton fights a personal battle with writer’s block, the monolithic Hollywood system certainly represents a force that causes a descent into hellish mental collapse. Great call 🙂

    Hope you are safe and well.

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