In short, we recognize from the beginning, Welles’ The Trial, unlike Haneke’s The Castle has, in many respects, little to do with the original. Perhaps we should just describe Welles’ work as “suggested” by or “in the manner of Kafka”—although even that would be a kind of exaggeration—and leave it at that. For, although Welles’ Trial is not nearly as absurdly effective as Kafka’s version, it is a certainly a moving piece of film-making—one of the very few in which Welles had complete artistic control—which does present us with many of issues of guilt and innocence, logic and illogic, sanity and paranoia that are dealt with in the great writers’ work.
But even more than through his characters, Welles’ drama comes alive in its landscapes, the vast staircases and spaces of the various sets, particularly in the director’s strange mix of domestic and the official, as when K first visits the court, outside of which we see a woman doing her laundry before the camera, crossing the threshold of a door, reveals a vast room of laughing justices. K’s office, simulating the immense office spaces of King Vidor’s 1927 silent film The Crowd, hints also of the inhumane working spaces of Elmer Rice’s The Adding Machine and Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (also of 1960).
One of the most spectacular scenes is in the apartment of the Advocate, Albert Hastler (played by Orson Welles himself), where in one room, K encounters the beautiful assistant to Hastler, Leni, among piles of paper seemingly as far-reaching as the possessions left behind by William Randolph Hearst at the time of his death in Welles’ Citizen Kane.