Franz Kafka. Photo: KVIFF

Franz Kafka in Film: 2024 KVIFF to host retrospective on 100th anniversary of author’s death

This year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is set to showcase an extensive retrospective titled The Wish to Be a Red Indian: Kafka and Cinema, featuring both direct adaptations and other works influenced by Franz Kafka, one of the 20th century’s most enigmatic literary figures. The special program marks the centenary of Kafka’s death, which occurred on June 3, 1924, at a sanatorium in Kierling, Austria.

The retrospective’s title is inspired by one of Kafka’s short stories, embodying themes of movement and transformation—concepts that resonate deeply with the essence of cinema. The program includes films by renowned directors such as Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese, Ousmane Sembène, Jan Němec, and Steven Soderbergh.

“Kafka is one of those authors whose oeuvre has inspired filmmakers for decades,” says Karlovy Vary International Film Festival artistic director Karel Och, who developed the retrospective alongside the festival’s foreign consultant, Lorenzo Esposito.

“It’s as if he were slyly challenging us to try to capture, as originally and intensely as possible, the elusive nature of his writings, his stories, the realities he has crafted, and the feelings of apprehension he elicits, but also the comic situations he has created.”

A highlight of the program is an original double feature of films by Steven Soderbergh. In 1991, Soderbergh directed the noir mystery Kafka. Thirty years later, he radically re-edited the original material to create a new version titled Mr. Kneff, which he describes as “a silent movie with sound and music.”

Soderbergh’s under-appreciated Kafka is one of the finest depictions of the city of Prague ever put to film, taking advantage of historic locations in a way that would not be possible today, before waves of tourists descended on the Czech capital. The reworked Mr. Kneff has not been released outside of limited film festival engagements, making the screening a truly special event.

Other notable films in the retrospective include Orson Welles’ highly regarded adaptation The Trial, Martin Scorsese’s often overlooked After Hours, and Artist of Fasting, an adaptation of Kafka’s short story A Hunger Artist by Japanese filmmaker Masao Adachi.

The retrospective also features significant works from Czech cinema, including the experimental and iconic Metamorphosis by Jan Němec, filmed during his exile in West Germany; Vladimír Michálek’s Amerika, a visually distinctive adaptation of Kafka’s unfinished first novel; and Joseph Kilian (1964), directed by Pavel Juráček and Jan Schmidt, a short film that may not be a direct adaptation of Kafka’s work, but is undoubtedly Kafkaesque.

The retrospective promises to offer a profound exploration of Kafka’s literary legacy through the lens of cinema, highlighting the enduring impact of his work on filmmakers across the globe.

Here’s the tentative list of Kafka features screening at this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival:

  • The Trial (Orson Welles, 1962)
  • Joseph Kilian (Postava k podpírání, Pavel Juráček, 1963)
  • The Money Order (Mandabi, Ousmane Sembene, 1968)
  • The Castle (Das Schloß, Rudolf Noelte, 1968)
  • The Audience (L’Udienza, Marco Ferreri, 1971)
  • Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung, Jan Němec 1975)
  • The Tenant (Le Locataire, Roman Polanski, 1976)
  • After Hours (Martin Scorsese, 1985)
  • Fellini’s Intervista (Intervista, Federico Fellini, 1987)
  • Tetsuo (Shin’ya Tsukamoto, 1989)
  • Kafka (Steven Soderbergh, 1991)
  • Kafka (Zbigniew Rybczyński, 1992)
  • Amerika (Vladimir Michálek, 1994)
  • Franz Kafka’s a Country Doctor (Kafka Inaka Isha, Koji Yamamura, 2007)
  • Artist of Fasting (Danjiki geinin, Masao Adachi, 2016)
  • Mr. Kneff (Steven Soderbergh, 2021)
  • The Tomb of Kafka (Le Tombeau de Kafka, Jean-Claude Rousseau, 2022)


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at

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