Franz Kafka's A Country Doctor

Alt title: Kafka Inaka Isha

OVA (1 ep x 21 min)
3.215 out of 5 from 1,032 votes
Rank #12,014

One dark and blustery night, a lone doctor is called to a village ten miles away in order to help with a sick patient. Quickly losing his servant to ill-intentioned hands and whisked away upon frightening horses, the doctor meets his young and ailing patient under the scrutinizing eyes of his family. It is here that the doctor will try to discover the root of the boy’s illness and also try to make some sense out of his own psyche.

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'Kafkaesque': extremely unpleasant, frightening, and confusing, and similar to situations described in the novels of Franz Kafka (Cambridge dictionary)  This short film is an adaptation of the story 'Ein Landarzt' (A Country Doctor) Kafka wrote in 1917 and published one year later. Among his works, this is one of the few Kafka himself, who always judged his own writing very harshly, actually considered good. And I agree with him on that, 'A Country Doctor' is one of my favorite stories of all time. Maybe that makes it all the harder for me not to be too critical of any attempted adaptation, but at the same time it is clear to me how challenging literary adaptations can prove - especially when it comes to a text that is so open to interpretation as this one.  On the topic of accuracy, this short film is indeed very close to its source material. The plot is not easy to descirbe in brief, but it revolves around an aged doctor who is working out in the countryside in the middle of winter. Under bizzare circumstances he is called to the sickbed of a young man. There all kind of strange occurrences on the way, making the events quite surreal und hard to fully grasp.  In the movie they mostly focus on the dialogue and cut the narrator's voice to a minimum. In this way, not everything comes perfectly across. Knowing the story prior to watching could help with that, but then again a movie should be able to stand on its own. I could be wrong, but I believe the creators were also influenced by the German opera adaptations of the text, like the one sung by Hans Werner Henze. The vibe is pretty similar, even though they seem to have based it more on elements of Japanese theater.                                          The film works with a lot of distortions and unnatural deformations. It is not pretty, but it is unique and is there to accentuate the bizarre nature of the story itself.  Personally I think they somewhat overdid it. Kafka's story is already impactful on its own and part of what makes it unsettling at times is that it is still grounded in reality while constantly undermining it. Unexpected events occur, but their contiguousness to actuality is what ultimately generates unease. In this way the animation took some of that away - instead of letting the events of the story stand of their own animation and style took the center stage without any real subtlety.  I know this is very subjective and others might prefer this adaptation over the short story, but for me the film did not manage to bring the atmosphere the text weaves across. And Kafka is a lot about atmosphere. Still, I'd say it is worth checking out.                                          Final verdict: 6/10 (pretty good)  Closing words: Though a trite remark, the books was better. 

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