"Happy Christmas, Mr. F."
August 14, 2011 2:02 PM   Subscribe

Combine Franz Kafka’s 1915 novella The Metamorphosis (get free etext here) with Frank Capra’s 1946 classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life, and what do you get?

I'm sure it's similar to, yet not congruent with, The Meowmorphosis, which you can find at the bookstore of your choice.
“One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that he had been changed into an adorable kitten.”

Thus begins The Meowmorphosis—a bold, startling, and fuzzy-wuzzy new edition of Franz Kafka’s classic nightmare tale, from the publishers of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! Meet Gregor Samsa, a humble young man who works as a fabric salesman to support his parents and sister. His life goes strangely awry when he wakes up late for work and finds that, inexplicably, he is now a man-sized baby kitten. His family freaks out: Yes, their son is OMG so cute, but what good is cute when there are bills piling up? And how can he expect them to serve him meals every day? If Gregor is to survive this bizarre, bewhiskered ordeal, he’ll have to achieve what he never could before—escape from his parents’ house. Complete with haunting illustrations and a provocative biographical exposé of Kafka’s own secret feline life, The Meowmorphosis will take you on a journey deep into the tortured soul of the domestic tabby.
posted by hippybear at 2:15 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might also know Peter Capaldi, the director, as Malcom Tucker from The Thick of It and In the Loop.
posted by Jeff_Larson at 2:17 PM on August 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

And now that I'm watching it, I have to say... 1) I was right and completely wrong... 2) Richard E Grant is a genius who is widely unappreciated in society except for fringe movie makers... 3) Peter Capaldi is that guy that I had no idea who he was until I saw his picture and then was all "oh yeah, is THAT him?"... 4) this is oddly amusing, and doesn't seem to have much to do with Capra's film at all... 5) this short is widely award-winning and should be touted as such... and 6) the sound keeps cutting out, which is annoying.
posted by hippybear at 2:43 PM on August 14, 2011

Peter Capaldi won an Oscar for Best Short Film for this one.
posted by mippy at 2:55 PM on August 14, 2011

"and doesn't seem to have much to do with Capra's film at all..."

Oh, but it really does!*

*In a perfectly morbid, Kafka-esque way (i.e., there's a very low ceiling to how much joy this guy can embrace. And his "wonderful life" is mostly a projection from his head.).
posted by iamkimiam at 2:58 PM on August 14, 2011

And a BAFTA. Don't ignore the BAFTA.
posted by hippybear at 2:58 PM on August 14, 2011

Well, although the ending is supposed to be uplifting in a manner opposite to the brooding Kafka, his diaries reveal a man who did believe in love; and his fiction, typically thought of as depressingly nihilistic, was also funny. Not just my opinion. When Kafka read his material to his friends, they would often all break up in laughter.

That said, the movie was worth it for one line alone: "Call me F_" Very funny.
posted by kozad at 5:05 PM on August 14, 2011

I almost titled the post "Call me F." There were so many great lines...I loved the part about him being a touch anal. Oh, and when he pops the balloon animal after he shuts the door (I laughed out loud all three times I watched that bit*).

The film is brilliant. Capaldi really gets what Kafka and 'Wonderful Life were about and blends them seamlessly. I also love the repeated line "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning he found himself transformed into a gigantic...what?" Besides being five kinds of hilarious, it alludes to that whole problem of translating the famous opening line of Metamorphosis from German, where 'ungeziefer' is a very general term and Kafka's intention was to be somewhat vague about exactly what Samsa had turned into.

There's also some indications of intentional structural poetic parallelism in the layout of the film and the layout of the book's actual opening line "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic [ungeziefer]." Much of the suspense of the book is in the way the sentences have clauses leading up to a final point – a good translation or adaptation adheres to this by staying true to form as well as content (obviously). And so goes this short film, where the insect is indeed not realized until the end.

And as kozad mentioned, Kafka is a funny guy. I wonder if he knew he was? This film is kind of ambiguous on that point. Which also makes me wonder about the popped balloon. It's the sort of thing you do alone in a room (as the balloon gifter presumably walks away) if you have a twisted sense of humor or are crushingly dour. Or both.

*Yes, I did watch the entire film three times in a row, why do you ask?
posted by iamkimiam at 4:35 AM on August 15, 2011

[Kafka's] fiction, typically thought of as depressingly nihilistic, was also funny. Not just my opinion.

Indeed. Orson Welles thought of his version of The Trial as a comedy - apparantly during a showing at a festival in the early 70s, Welles was sitting in the back of the cinema with Peter Bogdanovitch and Cybill Shepherd. They were cracking up laughing through the film, to the annoyance of the cineastes who wondered who was spoiling the showing of the serious masterpiece.

(Welles also considered K to be definitely guilty as sin.)
posted by Grangousier at 10:56 AM on August 17, 2011

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