Steve Soderbergh did a 180 degree turnaround from his debut film sex, lies, and videotape with Kafka, a stark art-film fable for literature majors. Jeremy Irons plays a fictional Franz Kafka, living in Prague in 1919. By day, Kafka works in a massive, impersonal insurance company.
At night, he spends his time alone writing stories about men who turn into giant cockroaches. Although quiet and solitary, he becomes a suspect in a murder investigation conducted by Inspector Grubach (Armin Mueller-Stahl) when a friend of his turns up dead. Rather than being harassed by Grubach, Kafka decides to investigate his friend's murder on his own.
Kafka speaks to his dead friend's girlfriend, Gabriela (Theresa Russell) and talks with gravestone carver Bizzlebek (Jeroen Krabbe). Kafka follows the clues to the Castle, a menacing tower that casts its shadow over the city and houses files on everything.
He winds his way through the cellars and tunnels of the Castle, where he encounters the evil and insidious Dr. Murnau (Ian Holm), whom he hopes holds the solution to the murder.