Insanely great Australian film about one man's crusade to halt the compulsory purchase of his family home. That the house is plainly a piece of shit, located next to an airport runway doesn't deter him in the slightest: he's surprised that there aren't more houses in such a great location.

This comedy pulls off a rare feat in extracting great comic mileage from the stupidity of the family, while treating them with the ultimate affection and respect. A rare gem, which must be seen to be believed.

Existentialist novel written by Franz Kafka. Kafka died in 1924, and asked his friend Max Brod to destroy all of his unpublished works. He did not do this, and instead The Castle was published in 1926.

A gothic / industrial / EBM / fetish nightclub located in Tampa, Florida's Ybor City district. It's a nice old brick building, with a sort of byzantine / gothic / victorian / industrial facade and decor. Two floors of drinking, dancing, and socializing. One of the better spots for Florida's precious pretentious goth and well-adjusted bohemian populations to
congregate.

On the 10th of April, 1997, the team known as Working Dog Productions released a little Australian film, called The Castle. Totally self funded, The Castle was shot in ten days, and completely finished in five weeks. The writers did everything, from shooting to editing to directing, resulting in a film that was totally their own work, and completed on a very low budget.

Working Dog Productions are a highly successful team of writers, with a basis firmly rooted in comedy. They're the team behind successful Australian comedy such as Frontline, and popular chat show The Panel. The Castle was the first film they'd made, and was followed up by The Dish.

The Castle is a warm hearted film, following the lives of the Kerrigan family. The Kerrigans are a close knit group, their most outstanding feature being that they're all complete dags. The family are:

  • Darryl Kerrigan (Michael Katon) - the head of the family, Darryl is a tow truck driver, and an adoring father. Completely devoted to his wife and children, he shows great pride in their achievements, from his wife's sponge cake, to the hole dug by his son.
  • Sal Kerrigan (Anne Tenney) - Darryl's wife, Sal's just as proud of her family as Darryl is. Sal loves art and craft, and putting a meal on the table for her family.
  • Dale Kerrigan (Stephen Curry) - Stephen narrates The Castle, and the story is told through the story he has to tell. Dale's a little quiet and shy, but not when it comes to praise for his family.
  • Tracy Kerrigan (Sophie Lee) - The only girl in the family, Tracy's the only family member to ever earn a degree, after earning her hairdressing qualification.
  • Wayne Kerrigan (Wayne Hope) - Wayne's the black sheep in the family, and when we meet him it's from inside prison, jailed for robbery. He's still loved by his family, and still loves them all.

The story of The Castle is one of Darryl's struggle to save the family home - their castle. After receiving a visit from a real estate agent, doing a valuation on the house, Darryl learns that their home is to be compulsorily acquired by the Airports Corporation. Their home sits right next to an international airport, and the airport needs the land for a planned expansion. Darryl decides that he's not going to give up without a fight, and bands together with his neighbours - facing the same predicament - to fight the decision. Of course, none of them are rich people, so the call on the services of small time lawyer Dennis Denuto (Tiriel Mora). Not surprisingly, their attempt is a spectacular failure.

What follows is the battle Darryl fights to save his castle - he refuses to give up the war, even while loosing battles along the way. He's doomed to loose, his heartfelt pleas and arguments may be based on everything that's morally right, but it means little in the face of the law, and big business' plans. The scales are tipped however, when he meets retired QC Lawrence Hammill (Charles 'Bud' Tingwell), who warms to the Kerrigan's plight, and offers his services free of charge.

The Castle isn't so much about the story described above however, it's about families banding together, even in the face of adversity. Families are sometimes portrayed in a negative light in these circumstances, many times the story is about how they crumble, and break. The Kerrigan's manage to stay strong, and help each other through the tough times. While their story is told in a very light hearted, humorous fashion, there is a definite sense of warmth that is at the base of it all.

Some critics have suggested that The Castle pokes fun at sections of the community, particularly the working class, and tells its story in a ridiculing manner. While it's true that The Castle plays on a lot of stereotypes - Sal Kerrigan, the devoted wife who loves putting a meal on the table, Dale, who's not too bright, Tracy Kerrigan, the ditzy blonde - these stereotypes are never treated harshly, and the characters manage to be completely endearing. More than poking fun at these attributes, The Castle has an ability to pop up something that just about everyone could identify with - you don't end up laughing at the characters, you're laughing with them, and often at yourself.

The Castle would never have been so successful, were it not for the fact that it's just so damn funny. Some call it the funniest Australian movie yet made, and I'd find it hard to argue with that. The humour is witty, and never stoops to using well worn comic devices to attract a laugh. In fact, I can't recall a single instance of physical humour, or anything remotely resembling slapstick comedy - the laughs are caused almost exclusively through the script, and its abundance of dry humour. The writers have an incredible for taking an ordinary situation, and making it completely hilarious. I've seen The Castle several times now, and I still laugh as hard now as I did seeing it for the first time. It's truly one of the funniest, most heart warming films I've ever seen. I believe one of its greatest achievements is that it's a feel good movie, but doesn't patronise its audience. If you shed a happy tear after watching the trials and tribulations of the Kerrigan family, it's because you've truly fallen in love with them, not due to manipulative devices used by the film makers.

The Castle has seen International release in countries including New Zealand, the UK and the USA. It was fairly well received overseas, although for some markets, including the USA, was fairly heavily modified. The Castle's not short on Aussie slang and colloquialism, and this would have been completely puzzling to those unfamiliar with Australia's unique speech.

It has also won a variety of awards, including:

  • AFI Award - Best Original Screenplay, 1997
  • AFI Award - Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role - Charles 'Bud' Tingwell, 1997 (The Castle saw a resurgence in the acting career of Bud Tingwell, after its success, he was suddenly in demand again)
  • AFI Award - Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role - Sophie Lee, 1997
  • Winner of the US Floating Film Festival - Audience Award, 1999
As umquam pointed out above, The Castle is also an existentialist novel written by Franz Kafka.

This unfinished novel is a story about a land surveyor named K. who arrives in an unnamed village which has this huge imposing castle overlooking it.

From the minute K. arrives in the village to ostensibly take up the offer of employment to be the villageLand Surveyor he notices that the village people have a strong dislike towards outsiders. K.'s attempts to meet with his employer, namely The Count, or his proxy, a man named Klamm, who resides in the castle, prove fruitless as he becomes entangled in a web of bureacracy and pettiness. It is this web of bureacracy which alienates K. from the reason of him being in the town, which forms the backdrop of the message the novel is trying to convey.

The novel is richly populated with absurdity, a strong and common feature of Kafka's writing. It is also richly filled with a metaphor for just about everything the average Joe Soap contends with - on a philosophical level. On the one hand the story is about K.,and the trouble he goes through with trying to define the purpose for his being in the village, and on the other hand the story is an examination of just how absurd an individual's understanding about the nature of authority can become when he notices another person lost in the hierarchy of Things. The novel accurately touches on themes of abandonment, existential angst and quite possibly our very definition of madness/strangeness(?) as Kafka runs amock with sketching a complex world within a world where nothing is ever what it seems?

The castle, and the invisible authority it wields over the villagers is also a metaphor for the Judeo-Christian idea of heaven. And K.'s vain attempts at drawing the attention of his superiors, let alone with certainty identify them, is a metaphor for religious experience. (Note what happens when K. tries to use a telephone to call someone at the castle). Of course, the castle itself becomes The Garden of Eden, and K.'s troubles as expressed throughout the novel simulate man's endless quest for meaning and identity within the framework of a costruct of reality which apparently is married to absurdity. Perhaps Kafka naming the mysterious Klamm's messanger Barnabas is a reference to the (disputed) Gospel of St. Barnabas

.

Throughout the novel the village people are painted as copies of foolishness personified. They are slow, stupid, fickle, full of exagerration and for the most part are depicted as beer-guzzling peasants. Everyone even remotely connected to the castle, however, dresses lavishly, speaks differently and attaches an exagerrated sense of value to their illusory authority over others, based on the simple idea that they are well, connected to the castle.

Througout the novel you will also find that cronologically that the time of day is always described as being close to dark. In fact the novel begins with K. arriving in the village at close to midnight. And on several occasions he remarks at how quickly the night has arrived. Once the evening arrives it seems to last forever.

Kafka's portrayal of the women in the story is perhaps a reflection of the prevailing view his society had of women at the time he wrote the novel. Frieda, the uneviable woman whom K. marries, is introduced as Klamm's mistress, but after a one-night-stand behind a bar-counter amid rotten vegetables and filth she declares her undying duty towards K. and leaves Klamm. She pities K.'s (highly irritating) assistants, finds it acceptable to move in with him at the school where K has been forced to become a caretaker and generally shares in the troubles K. is forced to endure at the hands of the faceless system.

For me, the most hilarious and absurd scene in the book is what happens at the school. The school is a two-roomed building, and K. and Frieda, and K.'s assistants, make house in one of the classrooms. One morning, having overslept, K. awakes to find the pupils of the school crowded around his bed, laughing. The schoolmaster comes across this scene and proceeds to give K. an extremely humiliating and merciless thrashing with a ruler. All the while K.'s assistants are running about the classroom like monkeys with their tails on fire.

The other woman of note in the story, is the landlady. The landlady considers herself a proud ex-mistress of Klamm, even though Klamm 'called for her' twice, over twenty years ago. She still harbours the idea that Barnabas might come summoning her. Note how her disposition towards K. becomes friendly upon learning that K.'s attempts to meet Klamm might prove succesful after all.

I read somewhere that K.'s two assistants, and if I'm not mistaken in all of Kafka's (unfinished) novels we find 2 odd men hanging around a protagonist (also quite incidently named K.), are in fact symbols of Kafka's own sexual neurosis. ie his qualms about the fact of having and and being unable to relate to his testacles. It's easy to fall for this idea, because in each scene where K. shows even the slightest affection towards Frieda, the assistants are mentioned as hovering around somewhere depicted in a light which questions their personal maturity and suitability as assistants.

This novel rocks, but beware you'll be lonesome if you tried discussing its plot and deeper meaning by a fireside unless, and only unless, your friends already think you're a rather entertaining pseudo-intellectual. Quite possibly boring as well.

Consciousness, Rationalism, and Frustration in The Castle and The Trial

The true appeal of tragedy is voyeurism. According to tradition, the audience looks to the tragic hero in hope of gleaning some enlightened course of action, learning from his mistakes. Cathartic by the end, the audience leaves relieved that they have been left untouched by so terrible a fate, exiting the theatre with little more than when they arrived. Yet a new breed of tragedy has evolved, still draining pity and fear from the audience, but leaving them to resolve the problems of the hero well after the play has ended, ambiguous and perplexing. Such is the nature of the Kafkaesque hero – his repeated failures intensify our own, unsettling our certainties, compelling us to consciousness, a state of pseudo-transcendence.

In The Castle and The Trial, two especially parallel works, this forced awareness in both heroes is evident. However, this notable connection only serves to heighten the divergence of their quests. The heroes of the two books, Josef K. and K., are character foils, complementing ignorance with wisdom, passivity with action, and submission with unrelenting defiance. While these men share a similar path, observing the same duties, possessing the same tragic flaw, their actual means of achieving consciousness differ immensely, leading them to vastly different states of awareness.

Parallels between the two heroes are undeniable. Both Josef K. and K. embark on quests for the ultimate truth: Kafka’s “meaning of things.” They face innumerable perils and endure many trials and tribulations, appearing to make negligible progress. Both reflect the curse of their author: strong spiritual yearnings in fierce opposition to a sharp, fatally rational and logical mentality. Both are inherently attractive, perhaps because of their direction and drive and sense of a higher existence. Yet, the similarities proceed to exaggerate the differences.

Josef K. is perpetually a victim. For the majority of his life, he has been metaphorically asleep, content in the soothing monotony of his industrial, rational world. Devoid of all things spiritual, he is bereft of “godlike reason,” and thus less than human in his ignorance. His personality, while perhaps outgoing and motivated on the surface, is ultimately unflinchingly passive. He is sought out by his fate, by a higher calling of a mystical nature, rather than vice versa. “Without having done anything wrong he was arrested,” but if, as often is the case the Kafka, his guilt lies in dereliction of a spiritual duty, unconsciousness, he is indeed worthy of this charge (3).

Still unaware of the quest, Josef is at this point entirely incapable of understanding the reason for his guilt: “he realize(s) that (the courts) (a)re speaking to him, but he c(a)n’t understand them;” a complete communication gap severs him from the ideal, the gap between the human and the bestial (78). As the incidents that prolong his awakening persist, this divided causes him great suffering. His communication with the outside world becomes entirely indistinct, his reality revealed for what it is, becoming as blurred and bewildering as it is to young Karl Rossman. The physical becomes drained of its allure, and Josef becomes disgusted by the “bitter,” “aimless,” sexual relationships he used to enjoy, just as Gregor Samsa is repulsed by his once favorite foods (108-9). Thus, Josef’s quest has made him an outcast in this world, and as he becomes “ashamed” of his spiritual failings, he forfeits his previous absorption in the mundane world for an awareness of his guilt (78).

This painstaking process persists for the majority of the book, and the audience observes the slow metamorphosis of the passive, drowsy hero into a man plagued by his guilt and his inability to exist in the suffocating atmosphere that he has newly become aware of. It is thus no longer the bizarre “Court” that reminds him of his plight. Rather, Josef realizes that “the Court wants nothing from (him). It receives (him) when (he) come(s) and it dismisses (him) when (he) go(es),” and chooses to perpetuate its existence with his own discontent and desire (192). As his madness becomes self-induced, Josef K. finally begins to take charge of his life in a meaningful way, steering his path towards the now illuminated truth. He thus becomes irresistible, as the one man among millions possessing such an awareness, where the “accused men are always the most attractive” (112).

And yet, a final, fatal, frustration cannot be evaded: until curse of rationalism has left him, he cannot in all truth atone for his guilt, he cannot accept mysticism, and thus the court, God, or the higher authority that holds him guilty is not ready to accept him; the prodigal son has not truly accepted his guilt, and has therefore not become truly human. After his ultimate realization that the court “cannot withstand a man who wants to go on living,” Josef K., now empowered by his consciousness of every aspect of his position, must take an alternate route, escaping the madness of the entrancing world by submitting to the court, willing his own demise (189). While Josef K. escapes “bestial oblivion,” he is not capable of real enlightenment, a thus dies a failure, “ ‘like a dog!’ ” and yet “his shame (is) to outlive him,” indicating his awkward halfway position, neither here nor there (231). Thus, Josef K. has his mission forced upon him, where his was peacefully existing in a sub-human state of delusion, and through much trouble, he becomes awake, realizing the futility of the world but failing to attain the object of his quest.

In a contrary position, K. is painfully aware of his circumstances, as focused and directed as the author himself. K. never suffers a transition as Josef K. does for the majority of The Trial. Instead, he arrives at the village in search of the mysterious castle. He has most likely not been summoned by the castle, although he claims the opposite it true. Therefore, he plays an entirely active role in his journey, possessing a defining human ability of initiation. Indeed, K. begins the novel awake, although with the “weary eyes” of a devoted disciple, tired by his preliminary journey and soon to fall into an uncomfortable sleep (3). With the nature of an ascetic, he fasts, with no “need of food” or physical sustenance; his exhaustion is thus from transcending to the spiritual (23).

Quite the reverse of Josef K., K. wastes no time; he has the well-defined goal of entering “the castle” and accomplishing his task, the realization of the spiritual, the acceptance Josef K. was denied. He soon understands that his initial plan of action is not feasible, for all the paths to the castle are blocked. The villagers are utterly unaware, as he quickly understands, and thus very animal in their behavior, passive, inhuman slaves to the whims of the castle, whereas K. “likes to be (his) own master” (9).

His stance on the matter is also very aware; he speaks with great self-confidence and laughs with the audience at the ludicrous antics of the villagers, their false sense of security, and their illogical, dreamlike behavior. K., like Josef K., is thus similarly a wakened man lingering in a land of dreams, the essential difference between him and Josef being that K has been immersed in a lucid dream, and can manipulate every aspect of it to his own ends. Yet, his powers halt here, and his struggle must continue in a cycle of hopelessness because he is still not capable of defeating his own methodical, rational nature.

Nonetheless, K. is a much more honorable character than Josef K., worthy of entry to the castle, always above his society, not guilty of ignorance and yet not innocent, not unknowing of strife, driven by a fervent passion for truth, for God, perhaps. He has come to seek divine acceptance of his own volition, out of love and desire, unlike Josef, who was driven to the same point, but through fear and confusion. While the manuscript is unfinished, Kafka told his chief confidant, Max Brod, that K. was to be formally and finally acknowledged, embraced by the castle on his deathbed, pardoned. Redeemed by his devotion and piety, K. atoned for his guilt, evolving to a truly conscious, utterly human state, achieving transcendence with divine assistance.

Overall, it seems that the aptly titled Trial is about divine justice, punishment for one who ought to be awake, while The Castle concerns divine grace, redeeming the relentless quest of a weary hunter with a final sleep. Josef K. endures suffering without perspective, wandering futilely to his inevitable fate. While he achieves a consciousness, because his incapable of admitting his guilt, he is thwarted on his quest, ignorant of the language of the spiritual. Alternatively, K. maintains that external perspective, which allows him to manage obstacles painlessly, enjoying a superior existence and finally rewarded for maintaining humanity amidst chaos. Both realize their inability to reach the heavens because of their rationalism, but simultaneously understand the failings of their world, awoken from the animal state. Out of place, neither here nor there, Josef K. and K. are true immigrants, lingering between the physical and the spiritual, the only hope is divine pity for our tormented tragic heroes, and for ourselves. Just as the objective explorer leaves the Penal Colony unsettled, his prior notions fundamentally shaken, insecure and discontented, we leave Kafka with a taste of something greater, children, immigrants, lost sheep abruptly awoken from troubled dreams.

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