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Metamorphosis: Film Review

Metamorphosis Film Still - H 2012

The Bottom Line

Adaptation of Kafka's famous novella creates new ammo for those who believe it unfilmable.

Venue:

Montréal World Film Festival, First Films World Competition

Cast:

Robert Pugh, Maureen Lipman, Laura Rees, Chloe Howman, Alistair Petrie, Janet Henfrey, Aidan McArdle, Paul Thornley

Director-Screenwriter:

Chris Swanton

Initial plans to use puppetry for the creature were scrapped when the giant cockroach broke during the first week of filming.

MONTREAL — The absurdist fables of Franz Kafka present a tremendous challenge to filmmakers hoping to adapt them; perhaps none more so than The Metamorphosis, whose protagonist is a traveling salesman who turns into a giant bug. Writer/director Chris Swanton, perhaps fueled by a first-timer's ambition, tackles this tale with a film that's quite faithful to the book. But while its source material will surely draw attention, the film is unlikely to satisfy many Kafka fans.

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Envisioning a man-sized cockroach -- and how it will interact with the humans it once called family -- is the most obvious challenge here, and Swanson's solution is a pretty silly-looking beast. The CGI bug is effectively icky in some respects, but in order to make it a functioning protagonist the designers have given it large, expressive eyes and a mouth that can almost smile or frown. A presumably modest effects budget means the critter often doesn't look like he's actually touching the set and props, but that might be forgiven if it were convincing in other ways.

Interactions between the former Gregor Samsa and others are similarly difficult to move from the page to the screen. Swanson encourages a heavily mannered, theatrical style in his actors, and in more dramatic moments actors resort to poses of menace, grief and shock taken straight from the silent age of cinema. These affectations mesh poorly with the lushly dramatic classical music used here; without the Mahler and Beethoven, the performances might have generated a self-contained weirdo reality that let us accept what was happening.

Production Companies: Attractive Features, Rockkis Digital Media Entertainment Ltd.

Cast: Robert Pugh, Maureen Lipman, Laura Rees, Chloe Howman, Alistair Petrie, Janet Henfrey, Aidan McArdle, Paul Thornley

Director-Screenwriter: Chris Swanton, based on the book by Franz Kafka

Producers: Chris Swanton, William Rockall, Lesley McNeil

Director of photography: John Daley

Editor: Chris Toft

No rating, 105 minutes