About Christmas TV History

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Franz Kafka's It's A Wonderful Life (1995) and Peter Capaldi

The most exciting news this holiday for TV nerds like myself is the 2013 Doctor Who Christmas special, "The Time of the Doctor."  In this new episode, TV viewers will say goodbye to actor Matt Smith as the Time Lord re-generates into his newest incarnation with Peter Capaldi taking over as the new Doctor.  I've been a big fan of Capaldi's for a long time--he appeared in Prime Suspect (one of my favorite shows, a British-made police drama starring Helen Mirren).  But honestly, the first thing I think of when I think of Peter Capaldi--is the short film Franz Kafka's Its A Wonderful Life both written and directed by Capaldi. 

This 22 minute comedy won the Oscar for Best Short Film, Live Action in 1996

The writer Franz Kafka (played by Richard E. Grant) sits at his desk trying to trying to imagine the first line of his new book, with the character Gregor Samsa transforming into a gigantic......what?

This Academy Award-winning short film dramatizes the anxiety-filled writer Franz Kafka struggling to come up with the opening line of his novel The Metamorphosis on Christmas Eve. 

Looking at a bowl of fruit, Kafka considers Gregor Samsa awaking to find himself turned into a.....banana!

Unsure what character Gregor Samsa will change into, the writer Kafka is continually distracted by people in the hallway outside his door and the holiday celebration going on in the apartment below. 

Fueling his paranoia and fear, Kafka meets a man scurrying on the floor in the hallway outside his apartment.  This frightening man is a blade sharpener--looking for his lost pet, Jiminy Cockroach.

Unable to focus on his work, Kafka eventually confronts the noise from downstairs.  The threatening raucous music is coming from a lovely party being held by innocent girls dressed in white gowns celebrating Christmas.

Another unwanted distraction--a woman attempts to deliver a novelty costume to Kafka unaware she has the wrong address.  What costume is she delivering?  It's a giant cockroach!  Recognize this woman?  it's Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes from Downton Abbey!!)

Though not a retelling of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, this stylized comedy is worth seeking out.  Don't miss the end where the cockroach, played by Crispin Letts, sings the hopeful tune “Ah Sweet Mystery of Life,” an ironic end to Kafka's twisted holiday experience.

What if....Gregor Samsa awakens to find himself a giant insect?  Kafka's eventual inspiration is hilarious if you've read The Metamorphosis.

The frustrated writer is pushed to his mental limits...until his friendly neighbors show him a bit of kindness.  It's truly the best. Christmas. ever for the Jewish Kafka, in this ironic comedy film.

And, don't forget to watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special "The Time of the Doctor" premiering on Wednesday, Dec. 25th, 2013 at 9pm(ET) on BBC America.

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