Kafka (film)

Kafka is a 1991 mystery thriller film directed by Steven Soderbergh. Ostensibly a biopic, based on the life of Franz Kafka, the film blurs the lines between fact and Kafka's fiction (most notably The Castle and The Trial), creating a Kafkaesque atmosphere. It was written by Lem Dobbs, and stars Jeremy Irons in the title role, with Theresa Russell, Ian Holm, Jeroen Krabbé, Joel Grey, Armin Mueller-Stahl, and Alec Guinness. It was partially filmed on location in Prague.

Kafka film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteven Soderbergh
Written byLem Dobbs
Produced byHarry Benn
Stuart Cornfeld
CinematographyWalt Lloyd
Edited bySteven Soderbergh
Music byCliff Martinez
Baltimore Pictures
Renn Productions
Distributed byMiramax Films (United States)
AMLF (France)
Release date
  • November 15, 1991 (1991-11-15)
Running time
98 minutes
United States
Budget$11 million
Box office$1.1 million

Released after Soderbergh's critically acclaimed debut Sex, Lies, and Videotape it was the first of what would be a series of low-budget box-office disappointments. It has since become a cult film, being compared to Terry Gilliam's Brazil and David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch.[1]


Set in the city of Prague in 1919, Kafka tells the tale of an insurance clerk who gets involved with an underground group after one of his co-workers is murdered. The underground group, responsible for bombings all over town, attempts to thwart a secret organization that controls the major events in society. He eventually penetrates the secret organization in order to confront them.



Kafka was met with mixed reviews from critics. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 50%, based on 24 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "Kafka does not rise to the artistic success of its subject, struggling to approximate the nightmarish absurdity that defined the author's work despite thoughtful direction by Steven Soderbergh and a gorgeous black and white color palette."[2]

Alternate versionEdit

In a 2013 interview with Vulture, Soderbergh stated that the rights to the film had reverted to him and executive producer Paul Rassam, and that work had begun on a "completely different" version of the film.[3] Soderbergh reported that he and Lem Dobbs did some rewriting, inserts were shot during the making of Side Effects, and he planned to dub the film into German and release both the original and new version together.[3] In 2020, he announced he had finished the new version, and would release it as part of a box set.[4][5] The new version, titled Mr. Kneff,[6] debuted at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.[7]


  1. ^ "Kafka". Film Notes.
  2. ^ "Kafka". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  3. ^ a b Schilling, Mary Kaye (27 January 2013). "Steven Soderbergh on Quitting Hollywood, Getting the Best Out of J-Lo, and His Love of Girls". Vulture. Retrieved 2014-03-05.
  4. ^ Kohn, Eric (26 August 2020). "Steven Soderbergh Reedited Three of His Movies in Quarantine While Producing 'Bill and Ted Face the Music'". Indiewire. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  5. ^ Schager, Nick (5 December 2020). "Steven Soderbergh: The Reports of Cinema's Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  6. ^ Barfield, Charles (5 January 2021). "Steven Soderbergh's 'Kafka' Becomes 'Mr. Kneff' In New 7-Film Box Set Expected In Late 2021". The Playlist. Retrieved 5 January 2020.
  7. ^ Hassannia, Tina (September 28, 2021). "Steven Soderbergh Reintroduces His Cult Classic 'Kafka' After Decades of Tinkering". IndieWire. Retrieved September 18, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External linksEdit