Since the beginning of his career, Steven Soderbergh has never walked the traditional filmmaking path, and after his celebrated Palme d’Or winning debut “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” he completely changed the game for this sophomore effort. 1991’s “Kafka” was an ambitious and stylized psychological thriller/horror/noir, presented in black-and-white (except for a key climatic sequence) that drew harsh reviews, flopped hard upon release and has never been available on DVD in the U.S. Our recent Soderbergh retrospective lauded the film as a “a very strong and idiosyncratic piece of work” but has it been consigned to the dustbin of time? Hardly.
Earlier this year, Soderbergh revealed he was re-cutting “Kafka” — starring Jeremy Irons in a surreal tale based very loosely on the real life author — with some very ambitious plans to fix the movie that he wasn’t satisfied with the first time around. “We shot some inserts while we were doing ‘Side Effects.’ I’m also dubbing the whole thing into German so the accent issue goes away,” he explained in January. “And Lem [Dobbs] and I have been working on recalibrating some of the dialogue and the storytelling. So it’s a completely different movie.” Just how different will it be?
Well, talking to Empire, Soderbergh says that the already arty movie is going to get, well, artier. “I was frustrated with ‘Kafka’ – it had a mixed-to-negative reaction when it came out – and I’m trying to completely rethink it in the hopes of at least turning it into something that’s unified. The tone was all over the place – which is the classic young filmmaker’s mistake. I’d like to make it a little more abstract and more of a hardcore art movie. It’s not a tweak: it’s triage,” he said of the movie that he says will be shorter.
His plans are to release the movie on Blu-ray with both the original version and the new cut which he’s calling the “Midnight Edition” because “it’s perfect for Friday or Saturday night shows.” While the German dubbed language track still isn’t quite confirmed, the movie will have a new score and an entirely new edit. No word on a commentary track, but Soderbergh tells Empire that re-teaming with screenwriter Lem Dobbs after their legendary audio contribution to “The Limey” “might be worth doing.”
No release date but perhaps we’ll see this soon on Sodebergh’s webstore. Until then, watch the original version of “Kafka” below.