SUMMARY: An adaptation of Franz Kafka’s short story in which a doctor makes a housecall on a sick boy and learns as much about his own psychological state as his patient’s physical condition.
WHY IT’S HERE: Koji Yamamura was Oscar nominated for his brilliant short ‘Mt. Head’ but with ‘Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor’ he made his undoubted masterpiece. An extremely faithful adaptation of Kafka’s grotesque meditation on life in an uncaring world, Yamamura’s visual style is perfect for the material and strikes exactly the right balance between a frightening netherworld on the edge of human sanity and a bleak reality in which suffering goes unnoticed or at least unacknowledged. The surreal, often baffling events of the plot cannot be fully appreciated on a literal level and any attempt to do so will lead to frustration and disappointment. Fortunately, Yamamura’s incredible drawings, which shapeshift around the screen in alarmingly fluid transformations, bring out the nature of the piece incredibly effectively. As with much of Kafka’s work, this is a psychologically challenging tale and features moments that really get under the skin and burrow into the brain like parasitic worms. Despite this overwhelming atmosphere, ‘Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor’ is genuinely enjoyable in its extraordinary inventiveness, unpredictability and dead-on interpretation of its source material. One of the finest animated shorts of the 21st century, it’s a dark gem to return to on occasion and think about for a long time thereafter.