SLAMDANCE 2022 FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! It’s 1987 in Massachusetts, and Fran (Patsy Ferran) has an unhealthy obsession with Franz Kafka, the famed author of Metamorphosis. She is so obsessed that she spends her nights cold-calling men around the country with the surname Kafka. She desperately wants to marry a man with the last name Kafka and continue, in some ways, the legacy of her hero. Kafkas, directed by Nick Blake, finds Fran, in the middle of the night, following her dreams. But she will soon find out that the men on the other end of the phone aren’t all she had hoped for.
I am attracted to possibly the oddest part of the film – Ferran’s voice. It is deeper than expected, out of the realm of normalcy, and downright mesmerizing. From the first time I heard her voice up until the last second, I was enchanted by the words pouring from her mouth. This seems like the strangest thing to attract me to a film, but it works wonders here. Almost the entirety of the film is Fran making phone calls, and her voice is the vehicle by which this tale is told. Ferran is the perfect casting choice, and making her the driving force behind this immaculate film was the best possible decision. Just like everyone else, I hate getting phone calls from random people that I don’t know, but if I received a call from Fran, with her incredibly Boston accent (not the annoying, whiny kind, but the smooth-like-butter type), I might just give the caller a chance.
Kafkas may seem absurd on the surface, but deep down, it’s just about a person looking for the right partner, for companionship, which is all anybody wants. Writers Robin Blake, Nick Blake, and Marianne Wiggins wrote a small-scale story that will appeal to the masses. Imagine traveling the world looking for the right person with whom to spend your life. That’s what Fran does in a much more practical manner. Ideas of love, partnership, and friendship exist everywhere, and everyone craves it – whether they care to admit it or not. Seeing a young woman struggling to find just that is somewhat heartbreaking, somewhat comical, but completely understandable. The short drama invites viewers in instantly and slowly reveals the intentions of Fran, effectively bridging any gap that may exist between the film and viewer.
“…desperately wants to marry a man with the last name Kafka…”
A brilliant juxtaposition of comedy and drama flows through Blake’s debut film, allowing multiple understandings of Fran’s scenario to rise to the surface. The darkness that sits just behind Fran as she makes her calls, the strange noises coming from upstairs, and the mystery behind who it is that she’s calling develop into something horror-esque, to the point that I felt a genuine sense of unease through certain portions.
On the other hand, the film’s ability to manifest comedy through Ferran’s facial expressions and Fran’s matter-of-fact approach toward dealing with her situation is impactful. That comedy provides levity in the more intense moments and creates a strange, dark, and fluid journey.
You know, watching a short film about a young girl in Massachusetts cold calling people with the name Kafka sounds like a drag. But, that logline doesn’t do Kafkas justice. Fran’s journey of finding a partner is riveting and full of life. The film is beautifully developed, uniquely dark, and comedic. It is led by one of the most mesmerizing talents I’ve seen in a long time.
Kafkas screened at the 2022 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…one of the most mesmerizing talents I've seen in a long time."