It’s been said that the logic of this story is the logic of a dream — a nightmare.” – Orson Welles, “The Trial”
There is a famous legal parable — “Before the Law” — which is told in the classic novel “The Trial” by Franz Kafka. Written in 1915, “The Trial” is the story of a shadowy law enforcement agency that arrests a man and charges him with a crime about which he knows nothing.
The story’s main character, Joseph K., never knows why he’s arrested, nor the charges against him. And, just to make it all more Kafkaesque, the readers are likewise kept in the dark — which affords readers the real-world opportunity to stand in K’s shoes — living the dream — as the nightmare unfolds.
In Nov. 1963, when Dallas Police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald at the Texas Theater in downtown Dallas, Oswald must have felt a lot like Joseph K. in “The Trial” — not knowing why he was arrested — nor the charges against him — and totally unaware of the unseen forces raging against him.
TMP’s Midnight Minions are proud to present a chilling-but-delightful version of Kafka’s parable as narrated by Orson Welles in his 1962 movie, “The Trial,” starring Anthony Perkins, Jeanne Moreau and, of course, Orson Welles. And so, without further ado, Meine Damen und Herren, here then, is Kafka’s “Before the Law” —
” B E F O R E T H E L A W “
Before the Law, there stands a guard. A Man comes from the country, begging admittance to the Law. But the Guard cannot admit him.
Can the Man hope to enter at a later time? “That is possible,” said the Guard.
The Man tries to peer through the entrance — he’d been taught that the Law should be accessible to every man.
“Do not attempt to enter without my permission,” says the Guard. “I am very powerful — yet I am the least of all the guards. From hall to hall, door after door, each guard is more powerful than the last.” By the Guard’s permission, the Man sits by the side of the door, and there he waits.
For years he waits.
Everything the Man has, he gives away in the hope of bribing the Guard, who never fails to say to him “I take what you give me only so that you will not feel that you have left something undone.”
The Man, keeping his watch during the long years, has learned to know even the fleas in the Guard’s fur collar. And now, growing childish in old age, the Man begs the very fleas to persuade the Guard to change his mind and allow him to enter.
The Man’s sight has dimmed, but in the darkness he perceives a radiance streaming immortally from the door of the Law. And now, before he dies, all he’s experienced condenses into one question, a question he’s never asked.
He beckons to the Guard. Said the Guard, “You are insatiable! What is it now?” Said the Man, “Every man strives to attain the Law. How is it then that in all these years, no one else has ever come here, seeking admittance?”
The Man’s hearing has failed, so the Guard yells into his ear. “No one else but you could ever have obtained admittance. No one else could enter this door! This door was intended only for you! And now, I’m going to close it.”
~~ Frank Kafka, ‘The Trial’ (published 1925)
Okay, I can’t even dance around it! Srsly! I’m just gonna come out and say it — THAT was totally hate-tastic! Shut the front-door! Slam it in their face! LMAO!
Yes, but as intellectuals, how do we interpret this parable in a scholarly manner? Can academia ever hope to explain this riddle-wrapped enigma? Are the words: immortal streaming radiance a reference to Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony?
Are we forever dreaming Joseph K.’s dream — the hideous, lonely emptiness of existence? Are we, too, desperately searching for justice — in a world where no justice can ever exist? Is this what cold, wet fascism smells like?
Is Kafka’s parable simply a reflection on how Joseph K. feels? — being ratcheted through a legal system of bitter indifference — a system that denies individual liberties, personal freedoms, and fundamental rights? Shall this humble narrator answer these questions with still more questions?
Notably, Kafka places the parable at the end of his novel, while curiously enough, Orson Welles places it at the beginning of his movie — and it totally works in both — which serves only to emphasize the fact that the Guard — at any time he chooses — is free to slam the door in the face of Justice — and thus deny admittance to the Law — in the most arbitrary and capricious fashion — just as surely as ten dimes will buy a dollar!
And, the very fact of the Guard’s existence serves as ironclad proof that Bill Gates could quite easily hire one half of the working class — to kill the other half. A sobering thought. (And, yes, it’s happening right now.)
Movie director, Billy Wilder — who made “Double Indemnity” (1944), “Some Like it Hot” (1959), and “The Apartment” (1960), saw Kafka’s parable as a cautionary tale, warning of the dangers of remaining idle, paralyzed and fearful — like the Man in the parable — who never even gets past the first door, but instead spends his entire life waiting — endlessly waiting — for justice that never comes!
Billy Wilder believed it is wasteful to live a passive life — paralyzed and fearful — sitting idle — desperately hoping and anxiously waiting — for some obviously insurmountable obstacle to somehow suddenly become surmountable — when obviously it never will.
Billy Wilder’s, “Sunset Boulevard” (1950), is the story of Hollywood has-been, Norma Desmond, who lives a life that closely parallels the grim world of “Before the Law.” Norma Desmond — played by 1920s silent screen star, Gloria Swanson, desperately hopes and anxiously waits to make a comeback — strike that — a return to the silver screen — but we all know it will never come!
At the end of “Sunset Boulevard,” after descending the grand staircase of her glorious Gothic mansion, Norma Desmond addresses the cameras: “This is my life. It always will be. There’s nothing else. Just us. And the cameras. And those wonderful people out there in the dark.”
The could just as easily have been Joseph K. descending the staircase — addressing the novel’s readers — all those wonderful people out there in the dark! In both instances — Norman Desmond and Joseph K. — we see lives spent waiting. And yet, there we are — lying on our dimly lit sofas — way past midnight — and we see Joseph K. looking directly into the camera — “All right, Herr Kafka, I’m ready for my close-up!” #Kafkaesque
T H E E N D
Written, Produced, and Directed by TMP’s Midnight Minions
in association with Chapter Eleven Productions,
Fly-By-Night Management Services, and
Neurotica Entertainment Group
Copyright 2018 – Truth Hits I-Team
“Freedom means nothing if you can’t keep the government out of your body.”
~~ T. Matthew Phillips, Esq.