In order to properly convey the mood and qualities of the life of Franz Kafka in a movie he is making, Maximillian Schell (as himself) has taken an apartment in Prague overlooking a cemetery and has begun an intensive research program into Jewish history in Eastern Europe. This is especially necessary, since Schell is not Jewish. Parallels between historical episodes dating as far back as the 13th century, as well as customary rituals, are shown as being represented in moments of the life experience of members of Kafka's family. Then, in surrealistic fashion, episodes of Nazi questioning and torture are paralleled with passages from the author's works. These show him as a kind of "pre-witness" to the Holocaust which was to take place after his death. At the beginning and end of the film, the Nazi anti-Jewish legal statutes are recited.
by Clarke Fountain synopsis