The Trial Film Analysis Essay

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The Trial Film Analysis

Brief Biographical Data of Orson Welles

George Orson Welles or popularly known as simply Orson Welles, was a great American director, actor, writer, film, television, stage and radio producer. He also won in the prestigious Academy Awards.

Welles became famous through his radio broadcast’s The War of the Worlds. It called a large number of avid listeners to panic. His works such as Macbeth and the contemporary figurative adaptation of Julius Caesar became legends.

In 1941, Welles directed, co-wrote, starred and produced the critically acclaimed Citizen Kane. The film, according to polls of many film critics, was the greatest film ever made in film history. However, despite the unquestionable talents and several awards won, the rest of his career was usually hindered by incompetent studio interference, lack of funding and other unfortunate happenings.

However, despite these difficulties, his film Othello won the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film at the Cannes Film Festival in 1952. In addition, his Touch of Evil awarded top prize at the Brussels World fair. Anyhow, Welles considered his film Chimes at Midnight and The Trial to be his best works ever.

The Trial

The Trial is a film that is even more visually extravagant than Orson Welles’ previous films. He used several themes, symbols and filmic devices that had become his trademarks. Depth of field photography, low-angle shooting, elaborate frame composition, visibility of constructed ceilings in the frame, attention to sound editing, expressionistic lighting, gigantic statues, houses in ruins are just some on the themes and filming techniques that Welles employed.

The movie opened with animated pin-screen illustration of the parable of the law of Alexander and Claire Parker. Welles dubbed the voice who also played as K.’s advocate. He also dubbed all the authority figures’ voices. The parable is about a man who seeks admission to the Law but rather denied by the guard and thus waited until he can enter.

With the film opening with the parable, it positioned the audience in an opportunity position from which to judge the character’s actions since they are certainly refracted through and thus rendered meaningful illustrations of the parable. Kafka’s tale absurdity is somehow interceded by the visual explanation given in advance.

The film also raised but did not explore too much the most radical implication of its premise, in which sin, guilt and responsibility are not forced on any man.

Demonstrated by the opening parable, the admittance to the law is not closed rather it is man who prevents himself from entering because of the notion of sin, guilt and responsibility that conceived of closing the door.

Use of Principles of Design

The film opened with a parable and in this opening, Welles executed the used of the designs, such as the unity, repetition and balance very well. The simple illustration of the doors created unity that somehow gave a sense of harmony and unity that pulls the whole picture or story together. The principle of direction and emphasis was also used effectively because we can immediately see the focus of a certain scene that Welles wanted us to see first.

I can say that what twined the different episodes is Welles’ vision of the different settings as interconnected through a series of secret dark passages, entrances, staircases and exits that disintegrate the distinction between the private and public spaces. Welles explained in his 1965 interview that his “original design was to have the number of realistic elements gradually diminish and the number of realistic elements gradually disappear until what remains open is the spaces and as though everything has dissolved.”

If compared to the 1993 adaptation of The Trial directed by David Hugh Jones and starred by Kyle MacLachlan, in my opinion, was beautiful and a subtle exploration of Kafka’s masterpiece nuances but still, an ordinary adaptation of the old one. Nevertheless, when it comes to the principles of design, of course, Jones’ adaptation will top the score. Colors, of course add spice and life to the design. The principles of design applied were definitely new and more appealing than the old version of Welles. However, Welles’ The Trial, has its own character and seemed to stand the time and have an eternal presence in each scene.

I can also say that it is indeed easier to do an independent film when art and designs are at stakes and better results when you are the one with full control. Despite the lack of funds because of the low commercial value, a film will be outstanding when it comes to the employment of designs, arts, and every element useful for a successful film.

Welles’ baroques set design and intelligent use of the principles of design also enhanced the impression that the different settings served as a “symbolic, nightmarish manifestations of K.’s inner turmoil” and dissipate the absurdity of Kafkaesque, in which straddled the line between the illogical and logical, the unreal and real. I can say that the film, then, is more of an allegory than a novel. Therefore, I can say that Welles was indeed successful in using the principles of design, however limited his budgets and resources were.


Charles Higham, The Films of Orson Welles, University of California Press,

Berkeley, 1970.

Albert Camus, “Hope and the Absurd in the Work of Franz Kafka”, The Myth of

Sisyphus and Other Essays, trans. Justin O’Brien, Vintage Books,

New York, 1955.

Principles of Designs Tips. Life Tips, 2008.

principles-of-design/index.html. Retrieved, September 9, 2008.

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