Metamorfosis: Franz Kafka’s Best-Known Short Story Gets Adapted Into a Tim Burtonesque Spanish Short Film

In one sense, giv­en their spare set­tings and alle­gor­i­cal feel, the sto­ries of Franz Kaf­ka could play out any­where. But in anoth­er, one can only with dif­fi­cul­ty sep­a­rate those sto­ries from the late 19th- and ear­ly 2oth-cen­tu­ry cen­tral Europe in which Kaf­ka him­self spent his short life. This simul­ta­ne­ous con­nec­tion to place and place­less­ness (and also, per David Fos­ter Wal­lace’s inter­pre­ta­tion, play­ful­ness, or at least humor of some kind) has made Kafka’s work appeal­ing mate­r­i­al indeed for ani­ma­tors, some of whose work we’ve fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture before.

When film­mak­ers try their hands at live-action Kaf­ka adap­ta­tions, though, they tend to find them­selves per­form­ing acts of not just artis­tic but cul­tur­al trans­plan­ta­tion. Just last year we post­ed Dominic Allen’s Two Men, an award-win­ning short film that relo­cates Kafka’s para­ble “Passers-by” to a remote sec­tion of West­ern Aus­tralia.

Work­ing with a much longer and bet­ter-known piece of the Kaf­ka canon, direc­tor Fran Estévez’s Meta­mor­fo­s­is brings the tale of Gre­gor Sam­sa’s sud­den trans­for­ma­tion into a large insect to Spain — or into the Span­ish lan­guage, any­way.

The recip­i­ent of quite a few awards itself in South Amer­i­ca and Europe (includ­ing a fes­ti­val in Kafka’s own birth­place, the cur­rent Czech Repub­lic), Meta­mor­fo­s­is com­bines Kafka’s still-star­tling man-turned-bug first-per­son nar­ra­tion with both stark black-and-white footage and illus­tra­tions to cre­ate just the right claus­tro­pho­bic, askew atmos­phere. The set design, which at cer­tain moments feels right out of ear­ly Tim Bur­ton, under­scores the fairy-tale aspect of this grim work of imag­i­na­tion. But then, at the very end, the aes­thet­ic ceil­ing lifts, widen­ing the view­er’s per­spec­tive on not just the movie’s fore­go­ing six­teen min­utes but on the nature of The Meta­mor­pho­sis, Kafka’s orig­i­nal sto­ry, itself — though, alas, things still don’t end par­tic­u­lar­ly well for poor old Gre­gor Sam­sa.

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

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Read Kafka’s The Meta­mor­pho­sis

Four Franz Kaf­ka Ani­ma­tions: Enjoy Cre­ative Ani­mat­ed Shorts from Poland, Japan, Rus­sia & Cana­da

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

Franz Kaf­ka Says the Insect in The Meta­mor­pho­sis Should Nev­er Be Drawn; Vladimir Nabokov Draws It Any­way

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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