Franz Kafka Story Gets Adapted into an Award-Winning Australian Short Film: Watch Two Men

“When you go walk­ing by night up a street and a man, vis­i­ble a long way off — for the street mounts uphill and there is a full moon — comes run­ning toward you, well, you don’t catch hold of him, not even if he is a fee­ble and ragged crea­ture, not even if some­one chas­es yelling at his heels, but you let him run on.” Good advice, you might think, “for it is night, and you can’t help it if the street goes uphill before you in the moon­light, and besides, these two have maybe start­ed that chase to amuse them­selves, or per­haps they are both chas­ing a third, per­haps the first is an inno­cent man and the sec­ond wants to mur­der him and you would become an acces­so­ry.”

Or “per­haps they don’t know any­thing about each oth­er and are mere­ly run­ning sep­a­rate­ly home to bed, per­haps they are night birds, per­haps the first man is armed. And any­how, haven’t you a right to be tired, haven’t you been drink­ing a lot of wine? You’re thank­ful that the sec­ond man is now long out of sight.” So goes the entire­ty of “Passers-by,” a very short sto­ry — one might now use the label “flash fic­tion” — writ­ten some­time between 1908 and 1913 by none oth­er than Franz Kaf­ka. If short sto­ries make more suit­able bases for fea­ture-length films than nov­els do, sure­ly extra-short sto­ries do the same for short films. Direc­tor Dominic Allen test­ed that idea in 2009 with Two Men, the adap­ta­tion of “Passers-by” above.

Allen has also made the bold move of trans­plant­i­ng the sto­ry from Kafka’s home turf of a vague and alle­gor­i­cal Europe to the Kim­ber­ley, the north­ern tip of West­ern Aus­tralia and one of the first set­tled parts of the con­ti­nent — not by Euro­peans, but prob­a­bly by pre-Indone­sians of 41,000 years ago. “My hope was that by retelling a hun­dred year old philo­soph­i­cal tale set in Euro­pean city at night in such a dif­fer­ent con­text as deep in the Aus­tralian Kim­ber­ley in the heat of a sun­ny day and by hav­ing it retold by a mod­ern Indige­nous thinker,” writes Allen, “I would affirm an ele­ment of human­i­ty’s com­mon­al­i­ty.”

Two Men also hap­pened to win him the Emerg­ing Aus­tralian Film­mak­er Award at the Mel­bourne Inter­na­tion­al Film Fes­ti­val and the 2009 Inside Film Ris­ing Tal­ent Award, but his oth­er more imme­di­ate goals includ­ed cel­e­brat­ing “the robust and healthy youth of Fitzroy Cross­ing,” the town in which he and his col­lab­o­ra­tors filmed, and to “rein­force Kafka’s point that it’s impos­si­ble to ever tru­ly know anoth­er’s moti­va­tions.” Or, in the local­ly inflect­ed words of the short­’s motion­less observ­er-nar­ra­tor, “You just bloody nev­er know.”

Two Men will be added to our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Franz Kaf­ka: An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to His Lit­er­ary Genius

Franz Kaf­ka: The Ani­mat­ed Short Film

Orson Welles Nar­rates Ani­mat­ed Ver­sion of Kafka’s Para­ble, “Before the Law”

Kafka’s Night­mare Tale, ‘A Coun­try Doc­tor,’ Told in Award-Win­ning Japan­ese Ani­ma­tion

Vladimir Nabokov (Chan­nelled by Christo­pher Plum­mer) Teach­es Kaf­ka at Cor­nell

Prague’s Franz Kaf­ka Inter­na­tion­al Named World’s Most Alien­at­ing Air­port

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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