Kafka's Revelations: Franz Kafka in Resident Evil Revelations 2

Thursday 23 March 2017

In my recent analysis of Resident Evil: Revelations 2, I noted the several references to Franz Kafka that can be found throughout the game. But since the story is literally based on Kafka works, I thought it would be interesting to put together those elements that are related to the author and can be spotted in the four episodes of the game.

It's worth mentioning that early references to Kafka can be found in the first Resident Evil game. I am not sure about the original version, as I haven't played it, but in the remake and its recent HD remaster, a copy of The Castle can be seen on two occasions.

One, in the medical storeroom where you also find the serum:

Another one, in the small study where you find the dog whistle (and the lighter, if you play as Jill):

In Revelations 2, things become more specific as the main villain, Alex Wesker, seems to be obsessed with Kafka's books, and specifically with the short story In A Penal Colony and its concept. However there are many references to Kafka's other works, as well as his life, that exist in the whole game.

To begin with, the four chapters of the game borrow their titles from Kafka's works.

Episode 1 is 'Penal Colony'.

And rightly so, as it takes place in the prison where Claire and Moira are trapped. Barry's section of this chapter also has the prison area as a setting for most of its part. The original story of Penal Colony describes an isolated prison on an island where a condemned man is about to be executed.

Episode 2 is Contemplation.

Contemplation is a collection of stories by Kafka. This episode in the game is some sort of interlude, in the sense that all the involving characters have a little time to think about the state they are in and try to figure out ways to get out of their stressing situation.

Episode 3 is Judgement.

Kafka's Judgement narrates the story of a father and his son, who hide things from each other and don't communicate properly. The father's actions cause idirectly the son's death. In the game, we get to see both Barry and Moira (father and daughter, as connected to the father and son of the story) talking about their issues with each other to Natalia and Claire respectively. In this episode, we have the chance to learn the reason behind the bad relationship between them, and to see in more detail how each one of them views each other. We understand that it's mainly due to Barry's actions and attitude that he doesn't get along well with Moira, although he is a good man, and never wanted to hurt her feelings.

Episode 4 is Metamorphosis.

Metamorphosis is a story by Kafka about a man who discovers one day that he has transformed into an instect-like monstruous creature. It is not random that the final episode, the conclusion, is named after this story. There are several cases of transformation that we witness in the game, and they are both literal and allegorical.

There is Alex's metamorphosis, the most obvious and literal one. Alex transforms into a hideous mutated creature, after she failed to be reborn through Natalia.

Alex would have reconsidered power had she known how ugly she would turn

Then there is Neil's transformation, both literal and metaphorical: he turned into a mutant after Alex injected him, and he also had a spiritual and sentimental alteration when he tried to steal the virus from Alex, wanting to take advantage of its power.

Neil got mutated against his will but the result was fatal anyway

There is also Natalia's metamorphosis, which is internal, as she got possessed by Alex; a transformation that passed unnoticed by everyone around her.

If you notice sublte details, like Natalia's smirk, you can tell she's been possessed

And there's Moira's transformation, which is the most essential, in the sense that she is the only one of the 'transformed' characters whose metamorphosis is for the best: in a bildungsroman-esque twist of events, she is forced to take responsibility and do something she would never do otherwise: she grabs a gun in her hands, so as to kill Neil and save Claire's life. So later when she gets trapped under the rubble in the collapsing monument, the old Evgeny finds her, saves her and takes care of her. In the long six months that she passes by his side, she becomes wiser, both practically and mentally. Evgeny teaches her how to hunt and how to be able to survive in the toughest situations, and although they seem to not tolerate each other at all, by the end they form a close bond, to the extent that when Evgeny dies, Moira becomes a wreck. All this makes her reconsider her relationship with her father, she starts to view him through a different prism, and by the time they get to reunite, she seems ready to make up for all the wasted years. It is worth mentioning also that she saves yet two more lives, Natalia's and Barry's when she appears as deus ex machina at the end of Barry's story, to initiate the final act of Alex's downfall.

A wrecked but wiser Moira appears at just the right moment to save the day

It is notable that the two main characters, Claire and Barry, do not experience any transformation; they may have sentimental ups and downs, and they both pass through a process of epiphany - Claire when she finds out the truth about Neil, and Barry when he hears the message that Moira had left in her phone, that she directed to him saying she was sorry - but their personality remains solid and clear from start to finish. They represent the stability, clarity and logic and all the positive things that keep the world going, something that they both also prove with their actions: Barry travels to the isolated island to find Moira, and Claire goes back there as well, determined to save her.

The setting of the story is an island, just like in Kafka's Penal Colony.

Alex kidnaps her victims and imprisons them on that unnamed island, where she makes them lab rats for a twisted experiment: she injects them with a virus that responds to fear and which may turn the carriers into mutated monsters when they get too scared. To monitor their reactions, she attached bracelets round their wrists. These bracelets change colour depending on how scared the prisoners are, but they also have another use: they are some kind of receivers through which Alex can communicate with her victims.

Claire and Moira find themselves in the cells of an abandoned prison, and while looking around for ways to escape, they come across a room with a weird machine in it.

As an item that they need, the cog, is trapped in it and they can't operate the machine since the power is down, they have to do more exploration so as to turn the power on. When they get back to the room with the machine, they are able to operate it only to find out that there is a dead body trapped there along with the cog.

This machine is a replica of the torture machine described in Kafka's Penal Colony. In Kafka's story, it was used to inscribe the sentence of the condemned prisoner on his skin, allowing him to live for just 24 hours.

Near the end of Kafka's story, the machine malfunctions while one of the characters, the Officer, sets it up to inscribe some words on his skin, it drops and kills him. The dead body that Claire and Moira see in the machine they encounter nods to this.

There are four characters in Kafka's Penal Colony, just like the four main characters in Revelations 2.

The Condemned - a man who is to be executed.
The Officer - the man in charge of the machine that will perform the execution.
The Soldier -  a man who guards the Condemned.
The Explorer - a visitor to the island.

If we were to associate each of these characters to one of the characters in the game, we could identify the Condemned with Natalia, since she was the one chosen by Alex to fulfill her experiment and she is never freed from this destiny, no matter which version of the story you get .

The Officer is associated with Moira, as it's her intervention or not that will decide the fate of Natalia (the Condemned). In one version of the story, Moira dies by the falling rubble in the Monument, like the Officer dies when the machine stabs him to death.

The Soldier is Barry, who protects Natalia (the Condemned).

And the Explorer is Claire, who observes and connects hints together and is not as attached to the events as the other three characters whose fate seems to be directly affected by Alex's actions.

Throughout their journey, Claire and Moira come across hidden drawings on the walls, which are revealed when Moira highlights them with her flashlight.

These drawings are replicas of Kafka's original sketches that were found in his journals after his death. The minimalistic style of these drawings hardly betrays that they come from so many years ago.

The loading screens of each episode feature quotes from Kafka's works:

There are also several instances where Alex can be heard, through the bracelets, quoting or paraphrasing Kafka.

Alex nods to Gregor from 'Metamorphosis' as Gabe's falling chopper is leading him to a certain death
Claire and Moira listen to Alex as she recites Kafka through their bracelets
Alex's timing for getting philosophical is just as bad as her experiment
Alex mentions another character from 'Metamorphosis' while attacking Natalia

Close to the end of the first episode, Alex guides her prisoners to go to Wossek, "where life begins".

As it turns out, Wossek is the name of an inn, which is located in a deserted fishing village, several kilometers away from the prison area. The girls arrive there at the start of Episode 2.

Wossek was the name of the village where Kafka's grandfather lived.

In relation to this, his grandfather was a slaughterer. Thus it is not random that in the next episode in the game, Claire and Moira have to explore a slaughterhouse to find a key item.

Close to the start of this episode, Alex welcomes Claire and Moira to Kierling, "where all things come to an end".

Kierling is a district of Klosterneuburg, an Austrian town, where Kafka spent the last three months of his life, in a sanatorium.

It looks like Alex has taken over the island, and put names on everything, inspired by her obsession with Kafka.

Before entering the slaughterhouse, Claire and Moira have to enter and explore an abandoned factory.

At some point in his life, Kafka became a partner, along with his brother-in-law, in the first asbestos factory in Prague. The abandoned mine in the mountains in Barry's Episode 3 also alludes to this.

In addition, the gas-polluted underground mine in Barry's episode 4 is related to this fact as well, since asbestos is a mineral which may cause serious illnesses when inhaled for a long time.

The mine that hides Alex's hideout is filled with poison gas

A few years before that, Kafka had worked as an officer in an insurance institute which specialized in compensating idustrial workers for fingers or limbs that they lost during work. This relates to the factory of the game too, as well as to the liver replicas that you have to find, one in the factory and the other in the slaughterhouse.

The slaughterhouse liver drops out of a gross machine

The lost limbs reference could also apply to the Revenants in Barry's story, as these terrifying monsters are made of several human parts stitched randomly together.

Sometimes the random stitching of Revenants turns out to be particularly grotesque

The two livers that Claire and Moira find have to be placed on a statue of Prometheus, which blocks the door to the next part they have to visit. When you first approach that statue, Alex speaks accordingly, parallelizing Neil to Prometheus.

Although this alludes directly to the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus, it is connected to Kafka as well, as the author has also written a short story entitled Prometheus, which narrates four different versions of the aforementioned myth.

As you go along the game, you find several files, some of which are directly connected to Kafka.

There is one excerpt from Penal Colony and another one from The Trial.

There are also Alex's notes on Kafka, where she mentions the story of Metamorphosis and refers to her brother Albert.

The game ends with a scene where we see Natalia sitting in a room in the Burton residence, reading a book. The first phrase that she reads, is from the Third Notebook of Kafka's Blue Octavo Notebooks.

And she continues:

 "But now the bird is gone.
The bird has changed."

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