The Metamorphosis - has captured imaginationsand inspired the arts since it was written in 1912 and first published in 1915, yet the novella has evaded a faithful film adaptation until now.
The cast of Metamorphosis is led by Maureen Lipman, Robert Pugh and Laura Rees and narrated by Tim Pigott-Smith. Together they expertly bring Franz Kafka's dark and comedic tale of frustration and inadequacy to life.
METAMORPHOSIS is the film version of the story of Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman in fabrics, who wakes up one morning after disturbing dreams to find himself transformed in his bed into a giant and verminouos insect-like creature.
The narrative traces the interaction of Gregor and his family as he slowly starves to death for want of the right kind of sustenance. His death brings relief and rejoicing for his family, and releases them to a new, fresher, more positive and independent life without him.
Before his transformation, Gregor had assumed the dutiful responsibility of providing for his parents and his sister Grete Samsa (LAURA REES) when his father’s business had collapsed five years earlier. To keep things together, he had pushed himself into a job he detested and got up at four each morning, rain or shine, to travel the country pedalling his cloth samples when his real desire was for artistic expression, successful human relationships and emotional fulfilment.
Gregor’s transformation forces the previously indolent family to take on new roles. Seizing the opportunity to find some purpose in life, the sister assumes responsibility for the creature’s care; angered by his son’s sudden incapacity to provide for the family, the father (ROBERT PUGH) is forced out to work; with her instinctive maternal love rendered ineffectual by the dominance of the father and the sister, the mother (MAUREEN LIPMAN) can do nothing but watch her son’s decline.
With the breadwinner now disfigured and deformed, the family’s drastically reduced income obliges them to take in lodgers (AIDAN McARDLE, PAUL THORNLEY and LIAM McKENNA), a shameful progression for such well-to-do people, and the final catalyst for the sister to lash out and attack the monster for the family's fate.
The brutish charlady (JANET HENFREY) disposes of Gregor’s emaciated carcass and the family can live again. For the first time in months they leave their shadowy apartment and venture into the sunny world outside to celebrate their freedom from a dreadful burden.
Franz Kafka (1883-1924) is the author of three unfinished novels, Der Prozeß (The Trial), Das Schloß (The Castle) and Amerika as well as numerous shorter works, including Das Urteil (The Judgement), Ein Landarzt (A Country Doctor), In der Strafkolonie (In the Penal Settlement) and Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis).
Very few of these works were published in Kafka’s lifetime, and when he died of tuberculosis shortly before his forty-first birthday, he was little known outside his home city of Prague.
Just before his death, he asked his closest friend, Max Brod, to destroy everything he had written. Fortunately, Brod did not carry out Kafka’s wishes but set about meticulously editing and publishing all the manuscripts he could find and, in doing so, ensured Kafka’s massively influential literary legacy.
By the 1930’s, Kafka’s reputation had begun to grow, then after the Second World War it exploded around the globe.
What started out as the intensely personal expression of self-doubt, self-disgust, despair, desperation and isolation touched a universal chord. Kafka seemed to confirm the feelings of the generations caught in the shadows of the two Great Wars.
His private themes were seen as symbolising the far wider political and social struggles of minority religions, cultures and movements. Groups such as the Freudians, Expressionists, Absurdists, Avant-Gardists, Marxists and Zionists saw him as their representative and spokesman. He has come to be seen as the master-purveyor of twentieth century Angst.
Today Kafka is the most acclaimed writer of the twentieth century, recognised as the father of modern literature, yet his superb story, Metamorphosis, has never been made into a feature length film, so this is the first attempt ever in world cinema to bring a faithful adaptation of the most famous short story in literature to the big screen.
Kafka’s creature, with its hard outer shell and ineffectual jaws, can be seen as twentieth century literature’s most poignant and vivid symbol of self-willed schizophrenia. One of the many ways of interpreting The Metamorphosis is to see it as being about a person who puts forward flimsy little legs and a useless mouth as the signs of a total incapacity to bear the burden placed upon him. He literally puts up a protective shell around himself as an expression of his refusal to take responsibility any more. In this state he finds some sort of hope for peace. But the marvel of The Metamorphosis is that it has as many meanings as it has readers. It is a tantalising enigma which throws out a challenge to its readers as well as touching and moving them. The Teacher's Handbook, available through this website, discusses some possible interpretations.