The slightly overdone feeling of the photography, the archly evocative acting and Cliff Martinez's music also impart a sly sense of the absurd. Kafka recalls the old joke that reminds us that even paranoids have enemies. [12 Feb. 1992, p.C07]
Kafka is in glorious black and white, except for an extended color sequence near the end that recalls the visual transition in "The Wizard of Oz." The comparison is even more apropos: This middling pigmentary stunt has a lot of smoke and mirrors, a lot of mood, and too much put-on wizardry at its center. [4 Dec. 1991, p.5D]
Despite its good looks and expertly turned performances, it trivializes Kafka and his work. The simplistic optimism behind it is more terrifying than anything we actually see on screen. Sitting through Kafka is like watching somebody staff a suicide hotline by telling callers to just lighten up. [21 Feb. 1992, p.28]
Perhaps Steven Soderbergh's metamorphosis from clever Cajun auteur ("sex, lies, and videotape") to heavy-duty Eastern European angst-master has been altogether too successful. Like authentic Soviet Bloc cinema, Kafka makes its audience suffer along with its heroes.