The 68 Comeback Special: The Castle

The Castle or Das Schloß is a film I never would have seen if I hadn't been long obsessed with the 1968 Cannes Film Festival. When I watched them all for the Totally Illegal Film Festival, a few stood like redwoods in a forest of shrubs. The Castle struck me not only because of its imperative direction and gripping cynical narrative, but because it seemed to have influenced so many of my favourite works of art. Words alone weren't going to quite capture what I love about the film. I'd have to show you its barest outline, its sickly colour palette, the plethora of damaged faces the populate the town in the shadow of the castle. 


After a handful of splendid static shots of gaunt hero Maximilian Schell (playing a stand-in for author Franz Kafka, simply called K) walking through the snow, there would be a zoomed-in take from a hundred yards away of K wandering between people and objects, or the camera operator would rocket around the set trying to keep up with events. Suddenly I saw the seeds that would grow into Devil and The Devils. This film might be the start of one of my all-time favourite sub-genres, the "Harried Men In Big Coats" film. StalkerAlien³, 12 Monkeys, Ravenous and Children of Men are all examples of the form. I can't get enough of them. No one shaves, everyone suffers continual embarrassment and injury, characters drop like flies trying to buck a ghastly (political) agenda. 

The Castle may be a parable (I've yet to see how the other adaptations treat the story), but its truths stick like pins in your skin. There is no comfort in the vagueness. You suffer right along with Schell's K, your hopes rise and fall with his. This might not be the best film that played the festival (The Firemen's Ball, The Red & The White and Kuroneko are objectively better), but it might be the one that haunts me the longest. 

3 comments:

D Cairns said...

Excellent -- BUT: 1968 = steadicam not yet invented. What we have here, I think, is VERY skilled handheld operating. It's conceivable they're hanging the camera from a cable or some other trick, but I think it's really just good manpower rather than technology.

Scøut said...

This is true. I've let parlance and shorthand get in the way of a much more powerful truth. I meant only to highlight that the handheld work in this film is breath-taking, and forgot myself. You're quite right and I feel foolish. I do hope Noelte and Wolfgang Treu can forgive me, wherever they are...

Scøut said...

Also, what are you doing over here?! You should be celebrating, you lucky bastard!