Shoma A. Chatterji

As Gregor Samsa woke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself in his bed, transformed into a monstrous insect. Who, or which between the two, is the cold-blooded, brutal and cruel being? Is it the horrible insect Gregor Samsa has turned into? Or is it the human being, manifested in his family revealed to be a cold-blooded killer of its own kin? Human relationships change dramatically when situations change, and this comes across brilliantly in renowned Russian theater director Valery Fokin's transformation of Kafka's quintessential tale (1914) into an eerie and stunningly beautiful film, The Metamorphosis. Yevgeny Mironov turns in an unforgettable performance as Gregor Samsa, the middle-level clerk who awakes one morning to find he has changed into a monstrous insect. Fokin, who adapted the story for the stage in 1995, shows the alienation and profound sadness that pervades the original story, and the class tensions that gripped Prague in the early 1900s.

Fokin takes precisely 20 minutes to arrive at the first sentence of Kafka's original story. The celluloid presentation passes through a masterful orchestration of sound design, cinematography and acting, at times taking the audience into a fascinating journey that designedly vacillates between the real and the surreal, the dreamy and the nightmarish, creating perhaps one of the best expositions of Kafka's literary work on celluloid. The pattering of the rain has never seemed so filled with mystique, nor has the rhythmic sound of a single drop of water built up an ambience of so much intrigue, working towards that first shocking sentence that not only changes the life of Gregor Samsa, but the lives of all those who watch and slowly get sucked into his metamorphosis. It is a point-of-view film unfolded through the eyes of the insect-turned-Gregor who watches his once-loving family turn into a collaborating and conspiring team trying to erase him completely from their lives. The film is a classic example of ensemble work, reflecting Fokin's theater experience. The film spells out in no uncertain terms that the metamorphosis is not Gregor's alone. It embraces his father, mother and loving sister no less. ...