Director: Darhad Erdenibulag, Emyr ap Richard
Writer: Emyr ap Richard
Based on: Franz Kafka‘s The Castle
Cast: Bayaneruul, Jula, Yirgui, Altanochir, Zandaraa, Nomindalai, Aruna
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 1.11.2015
K. (Bayaneruul) arrives in a small village. He received a letter, ordering him there in his function as a land surveyor, but when he arrives, nobody knows about his engagement. He is told that he can’t work unless he gets the permission of “the castle” that governs the village. But all of K.’s attempts to communicate with anybody in charge are destined to fail. As he spends more and more time in the village, he starts a relationship with Frieda (Jula), but he remains a stranger there anyway.
K proves how easily Kafka can be transplanted from one cultural context to another – in this case from early 20th century Czechoslovakia to more or less timeless-modern Mongolia. In both cases it’s an engaging, if not exactly easy piece of media.
I read The Castle many years ago, but I admit that I can barely remember it. I did remember though that it remains an unfinished novel and I wondered how that would be translated to the screen. Turns out it doesn’t really matter either way. Due to the surreal nature of the material, the endless, countless, timeless rebuffals of K., the way he gets lost in the village – it doesn’t feel like there could be much of an ending, certainly no real solution anyway.
The movie is a great adaptation of the novel, especially since it perfectly captures that sense of paralyzation that hits K. when he arrives in the village. Any big reactions to the impossible situation he is in, are quickly over and done with and the rest of the film we watch him become more and more stoic as he arranges more and more with the absurdity of the situation.
Despite all those good things, though, K does have its lengths. The repetitive, hopeless, dead-end atmosphere in the village just isn’t an easy thing to watch, making the movie a little hard to watch at times. But it’s still worth it to fight through the hard parts.