Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life: The Oscar-Winning Film About Kafka Writing The Metamorphosis

Peter Capal­di is best known in the States for being the most recent actor to play Doc­tor Who. But did you know that he is also an Oscar-win­ning film­mak­er? His bril­liant short film Franz Kafka’s It’s a Won­der­ful Life took the prize for Best Short Film in 1995.

The movie shows Kaf­ka, on Christ­mas Eve, strug­gling to come up with the open­ing line for his most famous work, The Meta­mor­pho­sis.

As Gre­gor Sam­sa awoke one morn­ing from uneasy dreams he found him­self trans­formed in his bed into a gigan­tic insect.

Capal­di wrings a lot of laughs out of Kafka’s inabil­i­ty to fig­ure out what Sam­sa should turn into. A giant banana? A kan­ga­roo? Even when the answer is lit­er­al­ly star­ing at him in the face, Kaf­ka is hilar­i­ous­ly obtuse.

Richard E. Grant stars as the tor­tured, tight­ly-wound writer who is dri­ven into fits as his cre­ative process is inter­rupt­ed for increas­ing­ly absurd rea­sons. The noisy par­ty down­stairs, it turns out, is pop­u­lat­ed by a dozen beau­ti­ful maid­ens in white. A lost deliv­ery woman offers Kaf­ka a bal­loon ani­mal. A local lunatic search­es for his com­pan­ion named Jiminy Cock­roach.

You can see the film above, help­ful­ly sub­ti­tled in Ger­man. Also find it in our col­lec­tion 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More, plus our list of 33 Free Oscar Win­ning Films Avail­able on the Web.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Find Works by Kaf­ka in our lists of Free Audio Books and Free eBooks

Watch Franz Kaf­ka, the Won­der­ful Ani­mat­ed Film by Piotr Dumala

The Art of Franz Kaf­ka: Draw­ings from 1907–1917

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.

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Comments (8)
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  • food chick says:

    That was very good. Bril­liant cam­era work. The last 4 mins. were total­ly absurd.

  • Michael says:


    When Peter Capal­di and Richard E Grant were mak­ing this, I won­der if they were con­scious of the fact that Franz Kaf­ka was Jew­ish?

    Or if it was a hap­py acci­dent to place a Jew in the mid­dle of a Christ­mas sto­ry? It’s A Won­der­ful Life sud­den­ly becomes incred­i­bly iron­ic. They give him mag­gots. Of course this movie plays on two stereo­types. The tor­tured artist & Kaf­ka the myth (the high-strung neu­rot­ic), as opposed to Kaf­ka the man.

  • Bart says:

    I have a hard time enjoy­ing this film. Kaf­ka speak­ing Eng­lish? Okay, it’s less worse than movies in which Nazis are speak­ing all-Amer­i­can Eng­lish, but still it annoys me (more than it should).

    Also, bal­loon ani­mals? Not real­ly his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate. :P

  • Joanna James says:

    Thank you for post­ing this. I saw this years ago on the A&E Channel…and loved it. It’s won­der­ful to be able to enjoy this film again.

  • Michael J. Tobias says:

    Sigh. Yet anoth­er so-called “free” movie that has been tak­en down. Does any­one keep up with this list? I’ve clicked on half a dozen and NONE of them have been avail­able.

  • Robert says:

    I’ve had the DVD of this for years, and I love it. It’s a beau­ti­ful­ly absurd look at a detail most peo­ple don’t ever think about. Of course, if you’re so pre­ten­tious that you can’t enjoy a piece of enter­tain­ment because the fic­tion­al take on the main char­ac­ter does­n’t speak the native lan­guage of the inspi­ra­tional fig­ure, or a minor his­tor­i­cal inac­cu­ra­cy gets your undies bunched so bad­ly that you have to become a con­de­scend­ing nit­pick­er, don’t both­er.

  • Brian says:

    I loved this. I shall watch it again on Christ­mas Eve.

  • reza says:

    Please email me the movie its a won­der­ful life

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