Character (1997): Oscar Winning Family Melodrama from the Netherlands

The Netherlands

“Karakter,” a dark and powerful drama from the Netherlands won the 1997 Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film.

Based on a 1938 novel by Ferdinand Bordewijk, which was a bestseller in the Netherlands, the film marks the impressive feature debut of Mike van Dien.

A period movie, “Karakter” is an emotionally engaging family melodrama, full of intrigues that unfold against the business and legal milieus of the 1920s.

Early on, Dreverhaven (Jan Decleir), a ruthless and intimidating bailiff in Rotterdam, is brutally murdered.  A young attorney named Katadreuffe (Fedja Van Huet), is arrested in connection with the crime.

Under questioning, the angry lawyer reveals a secret  family motive for the killing, he is Dreverhaven’s illegitimate son. Katadreuffe’s mother, Joba (Betty Schuurman) had an affair with Dreverhaven but refused to marry him, opting to raise her son on her own, despite her economic circumstances.

Later on, Joba takes in a boarder, Jan Maan (Hans Kesting), and the latter becomes a father figure to the boy, urging him to improve himself and pursue new opportunities in business. Katadreuffe takes Jan’s advice and obtains a bank loan to open a cigar shop. But the shop fails, and Katadreuffe must pay off his debts.

He then discovers that the bank is managed by Dreverhaven. His legal problems with the bank, motivate Katadreuffe to study of law. He goes to law school and obtains a position with a prominent legal firm. However, his berates Katadreuffe and convincing him that he’s doomed for failure, until the young man becomes convinced that Dreverhaven controls his entire life and wants to destroy him.

 

Oscar Nominations: 1

Best Foreign language Film

Oscar Awards: 1

Oscar Context:

The other nominees in the Foreign Language Oscar category were: “Beyond Silence” from Germany, “Four Days in September” from Brazil, and “Secret of the Heart” from Spain, and “The Thief” from Russia.

Running time: 125 Minutes

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