Mr. Kneff (30th Anniversary Kafka Re-edit)


Mr. Kneff (30th Anniversary Kafka Re-edit)

Mr. Kneff works during the day at an insurance company, where events lead him to discover a mysterious underground society with strange suppressive goals.

One of the special events of the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival was a screening of a “Surprise New Film” by director Steven Soderbergh. As many predicted beforehand, this “new” film ended up being a re-edited version of Soderbergh's 1991 sophomore film , which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and is a film that Soderbergh is not particularly proud of. Renamed , the film follows its titular protagonist (), an insurance clerk and author who becomes involved with an underground group headed by Gabriela () after one of his co-workers is found murdered. The supporting cast includes the likes of as Inspector Grubach, as Doctor Murnau, and as the Chief Clerk.

Probably the biggest change Steven Soderbergh makes to Mr. Kneff that differs it from Kafka is his decision to remove all the spoken dialogue from the film, effectively making this a subtitled silent film. The film also adds sepia-toned tinting to many scenes of this predominantly black & white film, resulting in a look that is not too far off from German Expressionist films. In addition to being about 20 minutes shorter than the original, Mr. Kneff also features a very anachronist soundtrack, with one of the most notable needle drops being the 1996 instrumental cover of Metallica's “Enter Sandman” by the Cello-based Finnish metal band Apocalyptica.

Having not seen Kafka in its original form, I cannot really say how Mr. Kneff compares with the original. However, it can probably be said that this is not a film for mass consumption. Instead, this should be viewed as a highly experimental re-edit of a film that is considered to be an early failure of Steven Soderbergh's career, giving the message that it is never too late to try and fix what is broken.

Mr. Kneff screened as part of the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.