A reel nightmare

Kafka's influence on trial at the NFT
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The Independent Culture
Alan Bennett once made a rather good gag about Franz Kafka's posthumous fame in his play Kafka's Dick. Kafka, reincarnated in the 1980s in the home of a suburban English insurance clerk called Sydney, discovers that he has become a literary giant. His executor, Max Brod, did not burn his manuscripts as asked. Kafka is horrified. Brod is unrepentant: "Who else would treat fame like this, eh? Chekhov? He'd be round at the estate agents, looking for a little place with a paddock and mature fruit trees attached. Zola would be installing a Jacuzzi. Even TS Eliot'd have people round for drinks. But what does Kafka do?" Sydney: "Find the whole thing a trial."

In the unlikely event of Kafka being reincarnated at the National Film Theatre this week, expect a similar reaction. No matter that Kafka had little eye for posterity, the cult of the tubercular Czech shows no sign of abating: the "Nightmare World of Franz Kafka" season is just its latest manifestation. Sadly, there is no film version of Kafka's Dick, and Bennett's Kafka screenplay, The Insurance Man, isn't on show, but the NFT has dug up 14 films that bear witness to the writer's influence. On Wednesday, the series begins with the biopic Kafka (8.30pm), Steven Soderbergh's disappointing follow-up to sex, lies and videotape. But things perk up on Friday with a big-screen outing for Terry Gilliam's splendid futuristic comedy Brazil (6pm).

Highlights in coming weeks include Jim Goddard's Metamorphosis (right), the 1958 version of The Fly and two works of the Czech animator Jan Svankmajer (Faust and Alice), plus two movies sure to set film buffs at one another's throats: Sam Fuller's tale of a reporter infiltrating a mental hospital, Shock Corridor - cult classic or pretentious tosh, you decide - and Orson Welles's The Trial, which the director thought "the best film I ever made", something audiences weren't so sure about. Happy alienation.

'The Nightmare World of Franz Kafka', 2-30 Aug, National Film Theatre, London SE1 (0171 928 3232)

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