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Josef K. is arrested on the morning of his birthday in his bedroom by two guards. After a brief interrogation by the inspector in his neighbor's room, K. goes to work at a bank as usual.
That night, K. returns to his boarding house and apologizes to his landlady, Frau Grubach.
Then, he waits for his neighbor, Fraülein Bürstner, and apologizes for the disruption to her room that morning. He insists on acting out the interrogation for her, then gets carried away, waking up the landlady's nephew in the next room. After embracing Fraülein Bürstner, K. returns to his own room.
K. arrives at the court the next Sunday for his inquiry, but the examining magistrate chides him for being an hour late. K. ends up giving a long speech decrying the corruption of the court system and leaving the court in a huff.
Despite his actions at his initial inquiry, K. returns to the court the next Sunday, only to find it empty except for the court usher's wife, who declares her attraction to him.
After the court usher's wife is whisked away by a law student, presumably to sleep with a judge, K. follows the court usher for a tour of the court offices. There, K. meets a defendant like himself. He falls ill from the muggy office air, and has to be escorted out of the offices.
At the bank, K. is working late one night when he hears a noise coming from the junk room. When he opens the door, he sees a flogger and the two guards who arrested him earlier. The guards plead for his help, but K. ignores them.
Some time later, K.'s uncle comes by his bank and insists on taking K. to see his friend, the defense lawyer Huld. While the uncle, Huld, and the Chief Clerk discuss K.'s case in Huld's bedroom, K. has a fling with Huld's nurse, Leni, in Huld's study.
Some time later in the winter, K., dissatisfied with Huld, is at work at his bank when a client, a manufacturer, stops by. K. is surprised to learn that the manufacturer knows about his case, and the manufacturer encourages him to see Titorelli, the court painter.
At Titorelli's, K. learns about court portraiture, but he also learns that acquittals are nearly impossible. After buying Titorelli's landscapes, K. exits Titorelli's studio only to find himself back in the court offices. K. manages to escape the offices and head back to his bank.
K. decides to dismiss Huld, so he goes to visit Huld's home. There, he meets Block, a merchant and also a client of Huld's. Huld attempts to convince K. to remain a client by browbeating Block in front of K., but K. is not convinced.
After returning from a business trip, K. is informed that he must take an Italian client on a tour of the cathedral. But the Italian client never shows up at the appointed time at the cathedral.
Instead, K. meets the prison chaplain, who tells him a long parable about the Law.
It is now the evening of K.'s birthday. K. is surprised by two formally dressed gentlemen, who escort him out of the town to a stone quarry – where they execute him.