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Kafka geht ins Kino by Franz Kafka, , available at Book Publisher EDITION FILMMUSEUM; Language German; ISBN10 ; ISBN
Table of contents



Straub : Well, at the editing phase we find ourselves with 25 hours of synched film. Straub : Neither was Chaplin, who shot even more still. Because he filmed action. And that, that is never produced before the 13 th take. This film could have been called Karl Rossmann or the Misfortunes of Virtue. But at the same time — and I hope that this is felt in the film — he always judges what happens to him. Huillet : Except for when he is with people who are below him on the social ladder. Cahiers: At the end of the film, there is this amazing shot on the train where, for once, Karl is entirely equal, in the image, with the boy who is seated next to him.

Cahiers: Do you consider this ending to be the end of the novel or not? Straub : Max Brod says that Karl had to find his parents, that he would find them in heaven, so to speak. I was totally incapable of inventing a utopia. Cahiers: If you consider that the whole film is a descent, then at the end we rediscover a kind of innocence. Straub : Yes, the whole film could be a vertical line and there, on the contrary, is the first time that you are on the planet.

Everything becomes horizontal. Or should become so. Cahiers: At that moment there is also the rediscovered innocence of the countryside. For this shot of the landscape seen through the train window, Jean-Marie was disappointed, he had imagined a sort of flash of the landscape…. We had filmed entire reels of the landscape but I thought I was going to only use a few seconds.

Cahiers: This moment where Karl Rossmann begins to escape the steamroller of lies is the moment that you chose to inscribe the truth of the landscape, since you actually shot those shots in America. They take off for a new world, towards possible utopia. But we said to ourselves that it would possibly be easier to find money in Munich.

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Kafka Goes to the Movies

So we had lived in Munich and we shot Chronicle in ! I really loved Hamburg. When we thought of the Kafka film, I immediately thought of the house where Karl makes himself put back the letter from his uncle. Once the permission to shoot for 10 nights in this house was obtained — which was not certain — we abandoned the idea of Berlin as a possible location and we began scouting locations in Hamburg. Why Hamburg? What you see at the beginning and what should help the projectionists to find the frame before the opening credits is a monument in the port of Hamburg, a pirate who had his head cut off with several others in by the patricians in Hamburg, because he threatened the nascent business of the Hanse.

Cahiers: What determined the choice of the black and white? Huillet : It was important in facilitating the back and forth between the present and the past. The subtitles are only an aid to hear the text. Straub : The untranslated things never interrupt the continuity of the discourse.

KAFKAS - DER BAU - Trailer & Filmclip [HD]

What is missing is often purely descriptive. But what is translated respects the spoken rhythm as much as possible. Cahiers: What does this film represent, for you, in your cinematic progression? Straub : What we try to do, with each film, is to open up a whole range. In From the Clouds to the Resistance , we tried to open the range of feelings as much as possible, from extreme horror to the extreme joy of life. Here we tried to open up the range of emotions as much as possible….

The monumentality of the character in relation to the set, the monumentality of the set in relation to the character.


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Something that in the spirit of two painters who I never think about while shooting but who I think about while imagining. The first is Giotto, not Giotto in general, but the one who I discovered in by riding my bike to Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. And most filmmakers no longer have any relationship to the language they were born into, in which they work. There are films where the manner that people talk has nothing to do with the house in which they were born which is the same as their mother tongue. A specific language, not a universal language, because cinema is not a universal language the way the Italians, Lizzani and others pretend.

Speech is a touchstone for judging films: there are films where the German or Italian language becomes sick those by the Taviani brothers or Francesco Rosi, for example. The other aspect is that at each second of each shot, what Renoir called the magical, the magic of reality, must be felt. That everything you show is both magnificent and the opposite must be felt.

Cameramen frame shot by shot, so they come up with shots that are not linked in relation to a location. This single height and position of the camera is not easy to find, in practice, even if it is already determined on paper. JMS arrives at the shoot with a map of the set on which is already designated, shot by shot, all the angles and all the positions of the actors.

The lenses are already decided for each shot because the Straubs have already decided upon them on set several months in advance with a viewfinder. The lines cannot be distorted. The actual search for the strategic point can take two or three hours. This forces him to affix everything to the ceiling so that no bothersome light stand is in frame during a change of angle.

The sound for a shot, in a film by the Straubs, is absolutely and always reduced to the real and direct sound that was recorded by the soundman during the take. They never take a sentence said off screen from another take.

Kafka geht ins Kino : Franz Kafka :

It has to be the sound from the take, and that alone. They are the only ones I know who do that. With the Straubs, his collaboration began with Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach , and today, while he is long past the age of retirement, it is for them alone that he agrees to take out his Nagra and microphones again. They are terribly demanding but they organize things too.

The Collection

If there is the slightest undesirable noise, they do another take. After trying the new Agfa reel-to-reel tape, he went with the old version of the same brand which he finds to be of better quality on the new kind he hears small cracklings. The recording is done with a stereo Nagra, most often with two microphones, one fixed on a stand, the other boomed, allowing him to avoid problems of boom shadow when the actors move.

In some difficult situations, he ends up being constrained to using a wireless mic, but he always mixes this sound, during the take itself, with sound from a microphone outside the edge of the frame, giving it a bit of ambience and sonic space. What continues to astonish Louis Hochet, after a 50 year career, is the attention the Straubs bring to the precision of the sound. But the crew and the actors pay for these high standards with difficult working conditions, even if they were accepted at the start. During this shoot there were eleven nights of work in a row.

From the beginning, the Straubs thought it would be impossible, for this Kafka film, to do both the framing of the shot and the lighting. Then they proposed that W. But it seems that, in the end, the tasks redistributed themselves and that, in practice, after some time on the shoot, the discussion of the framing began to be between Jean-Marie Straub and Caroline Champetier.

According to C. It will be something different, perhaps something better, deeper, more poignant. This risk, life on the verge, the unrepeatability of a minute and a possibility, a hope for a moment of perfection—all this constitutes theatre to me. Cinema immortalizes this moment but thereby kills it. Here it is, better or worse in the film. It is possible to admire it, it is possible to suffer because of its imperfection, but it is possible to make nothing with it: it is dead. As soon as the film was completed, Fokin removed the play from the repertoire.

However, his reflections appear to have ignored the peculiarities of the cinematic narrative. These repetitions and variations constitute the starting point of the present essay.


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Structural Framing and Signification The main peculiarity of the cinematic narrative of The Metamorphosis is its textual framing. Fokin sets the canonical literary text within several frames. The opening and closing credits create the first frame. Finally, the audible voice-over narration of the first and the last lines of the literary text form the third, Kafkaesque, frame of the text. The mode of presentation of the first structural frame compels the credits to function not only as part of the aesthetic whole, but also as elements of the signification process. The first silent shot shows white letters of dedication on a black background.

The following shots continue with captions in white on black, and present the sound in a way that is not matched temporally with the movements occurring in the images: the initial caption introduces the production companies and, a little later, there occurs the very faint sound of rain. The title is followed by a shot with the image of a beetle, which remains in the last fragment of the opening credits. The last fragment similarly exposes the sound later than the image: first, it introduces the picture of a beetle and only after this allows the spectator to hear how the sound of the rain becomes a background to unarticulated mumbling in German.

Three observations are in order here: first, the opening credits disclose the three layers of cinematic discourse—word, non-verbal sound and visual image. Second, the credits reveal the essential modes of presentation of sound and image in cinematic discourse: visible word captions and audible word mumbling in German , audible non-verbal sound rain and visible non-verbal sound a moving drop of rain appears on the picture , visible image and audible image the same moving drop of rain which visualizes the sound of rain.

The closing credits are created in the opposite manner. The white letters on a black background of the opening credits are replaced with black letters on a white background. This way of presenting the credits allows for interpreting the contrast as a conflict of two modes of writing—cinema and literature. Writing in white on black a negative is changed to the traditional literary writing mode of black on white. The action of the first and last scenes takes place at a railway station.

The train appears as a black spot, growing until the train stops. After it stops, smoke forms a black shot, thus isolating the first scene from the next. On the other hand, it is obviously surrealistic. Gregor takes a train at a railway station and sees his father checking the tickets. Afterwards, he finds himself in a train carriage where he sees Grete playing the violin.

She passes Gregor and disappears. The train begins to move. Gregor looks through the train window and sees a crowd of men wearing bowler hats. Later, when the chief clerk appears out of nowhere, Gregor tries to hide, opens the door of the compartment and sees his father playing the violin with a saw instead of a bow. He runs to another compartment in which he is buried under sand. It is precisely this unaccustomed juxtaposition, the strange linking of ordinary objects, and the way they are combined, that evokes surreal mystery. The inner scenes of the prologue, showing Gregor making his way home, his interaction with his family, and, finally, his behaviour in his own room, visualize the sound and highlight the potential of cinematic representation in contrast to literary discourse.


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  • Gregor, in turn, looks out from the window of his room and sees the rain falling outside but does not hear the sound of rain. The manner of presentation of the sound not only visualizes the sound but also unmasks the barriers within the diegetic space. Indicating the name at the beginning of the film gives an impression of concrete localization of action.

    Thus, while the inner parts of the second frame create the borders within the diegesis, the outer parts of the frame erase the borders between fictional and non-fictional spaces, and expose the dissolution of the fictional world in reality and vice versa. It also reveals the surrealistic nature of discourse, creates the intricate relationship between the fictional world and reality and, finally, forms barriers in space. The third frame creates a different tension between the soundtrack and the visual track, exposing the peculiar nature of the relationship between the narrator and the main character.

    The initial part of the frame introduces a visual metamorphosis of Gregor-Mironov, commented on by the first line of the literary narrative pronounced by a voice-over. However, the voice-over commentary is presented through the voice of Mironov, which we have already heard as that of Gregor Samsa in the authorial prologue. He stands right by the door and reads the last lines of the literary text. In both cases, the cinematic text exposes the transformation of the fictional character into the narrator and vice versa.

    The beginning emphasizes the acoustic aspect of metamorphosis, while the conclusion underscores the visual. The device which helps to connect them is the name of the main character, for it points to the author himself. Well-known examples are the names of the main characters of The Trial Joseph K. Kafka creates a special cryptographic system revealing his third-person narrative as speech about himself.

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    The name of the main character of The Metamorphosis can be deciphered according to the same logic Grego[r]—Franz, Samsa—Kafka. Hence, the third-person narrator of this novella, who exists outside the diegetic space as do other Kafka narrators , tells the story of a character-author. It re presents the surrealistic principle of textual construction, the relative identity of narrative instances, the peculiarities of the spatial organization the barriers of the Kafka world , and does it in essentially different cinematic modes.

    Visual Sequence and Intertextual Dialogue The problem of a picture set in motion is connected with the manner of presentation of a visual sequence within the structural frames, which can be described as follows: every fragment of visual track in the film begins with a static shot, which begins to move after the initial fixation. This single mute and unmovable shot creates a dialogue with an intertext complicating the relation between fiction and reality.

    On the other hand, the film is dedicated to the individual who had converted another kind of metamorphosis into fact—directed his own death on the stage and performed both the role of director and central character. Mommy, Daddy, Gregor has arrived! The first two paintings depict the static figure of a man in the same black suit and bowler hat. All three Magritte paintings demonstrate a complicated relationship between the word title and the visual image. Magrittean words perform the function of a supporting abutment and at the same time the function of termites, which gnaw the abutment and force the whole construction to collapse Foucault The painter himself once mentioned that the titles do not explain the paintings, nor do the paintings illustrate the titles.

    The link between the title of the picture and the picture itself is poetic—a connection focusing on certain features of an object which are usually ignored by consciousness Paquet The title of the first painting is The Son of Man. Transfiguration discloses that the material body and face of Jesus is not the truthful one, for it reveals the material substance to be the figure only, the veil covering another true substance—the Holy Light.

    And it is precisely this inner episode with doves that is underlined by means of a radically different colour solution in comparison to other fragments of the film. The object is none other than the pipe, evoking two well-known Magritte paintings: The Treason of Images. Unlike the apple and the dove represented in the inner part of the film, the pipe is not depicted visually. The beginning of the film introduces an anonymous figure later identified as Gregor.