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"CHARACTER"
(1998) (Fedja Van Huet, Jan Decleir) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild Moderate Moderate Mild Moderate
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Minor None Moderate None Minor
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Minor Moderate Heavy Mild Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: After being accused of killing his own father in 1920's Rotterdam, a young lawyer recounts a lifelong tale of events that eventually led to a deadly conclusion.
PLOT:
Katadreuffe (FEDJA VAN HUET) is a young lawyer in 1920's Rotterdam who's been arrested and accused of killing his own father, Dreverhaven (JAN DECLEIR), the city's most feared bailiff. Claiming his innocense, Katadreuffe tells the investigators the series of events that led up to his father's death. He begins by telling them that he was born an illegitimate child to Joba Katadreuffe (BETTY SCHUURMAN), a stoic and hardworking woman, and her boss, Dreverhaven.

Although best known for ruthlessly evicting tenants, Dreverhaven repeatedly offers to marry Joba, a proposal she continually refuses. Growing up poor, Katadreuffe educates himself from an incomplete encyclopedia set. While he and his mother are so different from one another that they barely speak, he does befriend one of her lodgers, Jan Maan (HANS KESTING), a man who encourages Katadreuffe to improve his social and economic standings.

A failed business venture, however, leaves Katadreuffe bankrupt and unknowingly in debt to Dreverhaven. Determined not to let his distant father ruin his life, Katadreuffe sets off to become a lawyer after his first experience with the law offices of Stroomkonig (BERNARD DROOG) where he's eventually taken under the wing of De Gankelaar (VICTOR LOW). As he begins his ascension toward social and financial success, Katadreuffe falls in love with a young secretary, Lorna te George (TAMAR VAN DEN DOP), but must temper that with his disdain toward his father.

From that point on, and despite Dreverhaven's efforts to seemingly prevent him from doing so, Katadreuffe continues to strive for success, an action that ultimately will have unexpected consequences.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
It's not very likely -- a subtitled, period film won't be of interest to most kids.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For violence.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • FEDJA VAN HUET plays a self-educated and extremely determined man who sets out to foil what he believes are his distant father's attempts to ruin his life.
  • JAN DECLEIR plays a ruthless bailiff who feels no remorse for evicting his tenants or seemingly attempting to ruin his son's life.
  • BETTY SCHUURMAN plays Katadreuffe's hardworking and stoic mother whose one brief liaison with Dreverhaven left her pregnant.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
    Based on Ferdinand Bordewijk's classic 1938 novel of the same name, "Character," the 1997 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, is an interesting and decidedly offbeat film that bears a striking resemblance to the central plot element of the "Star Wars" trilogy. Now, before you go and think that I've finally lost it by comparing a moody, art house piece set in 1920's Rotterdam to a series of extremely popular sci-fi films set in another galaxy, take a closer look at the familial structure of both films.

    In each, the main character is essentially motherless (Luke's is dead while Katadreuffe's is so emotionally distant she might as well be gone). Both characters are surprised to find that their fathers -- previously unknown to them -- are ruthless, despicable men responsible for the suffering of many people under their control. Finally, the main characters, although young and naive, set out to succeed despite their fathers' attempts to squash such efforts. Their actions eventually lead to their fathers' deaths at which point they learn there was more to them than initially met the eye.

    Of course, all of that exists on a thematic level that many viewers might not even notice, especially considering the foreboding atmosphere that permeates most of "Character's" two hour length. First-time director Mike van Diem and cinematographer Rogier Stoffers have created a shadowy concoction reminiscent of those classic black and white horror films from the 1920's and the later works of cinema visionary, Terry Gilliam ("Brazil").

    Playing as much of a character as the human performers, the shadow laden photography perfectly symbolizes Katadreuffe's dark and mysterious relationship with his father. It's only when the main character pursues his romance with a fellow coworker that the film finally opens up into a light and airy world. If not for those respite moments, the film would be too suffocating and one would also begin to suspect that the people of Rotterdam had an aversion to windows and/or that the sun never shines there.

    The roles the performers inhabit are just as mysterious as whatever might be lurking in the foreboding shadows, but what an interesting and certainly differentiated bunch of characters they play. Although they're never fully explored and don't change to any great extent (except for Katadreuffe and that's mainly due to aging), these characters are a fascinating lot.

    Fedja Van Huet -- who looks so similar to Robert Downey, Jr. that he might as well be his long lost twin brother -- is good in his role as the son desperate to break free from his father. Although his similarities to that more famous actor may impede a possible career in Hollywood, Van Huet's film debut is indeed quite impressive.

    More interesting, though, are the supporting characters and Jan Decleir is outstanding as the "evil" father. Although seemingly a one-note character, Decleir gives him enough subtle nuances to make the character come alive and stand out from the rest. Victor Low, who plays Katadreuffe's mentor, likewise gives his character enough interesting qualities to make him distinctive, and Betty Schuurman delivers an adequate performance for being stuck in the role of the stoic and emotionally distant mother.

    While some may not find that the foreboding and mysterious atmosphere -- surrounding both the set and the characters -- to their liking, art house fans will probably enjoy the film. And if you can manage to convince your teenagers to have an open mind and think of the similarities to "Star Wars" (I know, I can see the blank "you've got to be kidding" look right now), you may just get them to watch this Oscar winning film. While not perfect and certainly not for everyone's tastes, this picture is unlike most films you'll see this year. We give "Character" a 7 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Here's a quick look at the film's content. Several violent scenes occur that include a prolonged fight, a man being shot, and another stabbing himself to death (the latter of which is quite bloody). An unseen encounter results in a woman getting pregnant that later leads to a dysfunctional family where a son and father are at odds with each other. There's also some drinking and smoking and some instances of disrespectful behavior, but beyond that there's no content that's of major concern. Even so, you should still look through the listings just to make sure for yourself or anyone in your home who wishes to see this film.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Katadreuffe states that he's going to get drunk (after learning about another possible bankruptcy) and we see him go into a bar, but don't see him drink.
  • Dreverhaven is noted for being an alcoholic, but we only see him drink a few times.
  • Katadreuffe and others drink champagne at a party.
  • Jan Maan has some wine as he celebrates with Katadreuffe over his law school graduation.
  • Some people drink champagne/wine with dinner.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Katadreuffe (as an older boy) has some blood on him after doing something to a police officer who was accosting him.
  • We hear Katadreuffe throwing up (but we don't see him doing so).
  • Dreverhaven's face has a tiny bit of blood on it after he's grazed by a bullet.
  • We briefly see a small bloody bullet hole in a man's head as he's shot.
  • Katadreuffe's is bloody after fighting his father, who's even more bloody than his son.
  • A great deal of blood freely flows out over a man's hands after he stabs himself with a knife in his gut.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Dreverhaven is a ruthless bailiff and we see him evicting tenants without a care about them. In one, he drags a woman -- and the bed she's lying on -- out onto the street where he unceremoniously dumps her from it. Katadreuffe also gets the impression -- as does the audience -- that his father is out to get him and prevent him from succeeding in life.
  • Some school kids pass around a note -- about Katadreuffe, who's also a kid -- stating that he's a "bastard" son. Later, they push him down some steps and another spits on him.
  • Some older kids have stolen some bread and hand some to the now older Katadreuffe who must run along with them, but is captured by the police. Later, when he calls upon his father to help him get out of this fix, Dreverhaven claims not to know the boy.
  • A police officer hits a boy, who's stolen some bread, with his billy club (heard more than seen) as they interrogate the boys.
  • Some may see Jan Maan, Joba's new tenant, as having both for being a communist.
  • A man who sold empty boxes of cigars to Katadreuffe has both.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Some viewers may find scenes listed under "Violence" as tense or suspenseful.
  • Dreverhaven goes to serve an eviction notice in a neighborhood surrounded by police/soldiers in a scene that lasts for several minutes. After posting the notice, he's shot at several times by someone in the dark, and one of the bullets grazes his face. We eventually see the man who aims his gun point blank at Draverhaven and pulls the trigger, but he's out of bullets. That man is then shot in the head and killed by one of the officers/soldiers.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handguns/Rifles/Knives/Billy Clubs: Used to threaten, wound or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Bastard" and "Whore" (in English subtitles).
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • There is a moderate amount of suspenseful music in the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • 1 ass, 1 damn and 1 use each of "Christ" and "Jesus Christ" as exclamations (in English subtitles).
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Although we don't see anything, Dreverhaven and Joba have a one-time affair that results in her getting pregnant.
  • In a dream, Dreverhaven walks out and confronts a crowd at night without any clothes on. Seen nude from a very long distance, we also briefly and partially see his bare butt in a shadowy shot from closer behind him.
  • SMOKING
  • Katadreuffe smokes quite often throughout the movie.
  • A friend of Lorna's smokes.
  • A background character smokes as do some office workers in several scenes.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Katadreuffe is the illegitimate child from a one-time liaison between Dreverhaven and Joba. She refuses to accept his marriage proposals, so Katadreuffe grows up without a father and is called a bastard child by other children while his mother is called a whore.
  • Katadreuffe never gets to know his father and eventually sees him as a man set on a mission to destroy his life, and thus comes to hate this man.
  • Regarding his relationship with his mother, she's so emotionally aloof that they barely speak to one another and their interaction is strained at best.
  • Katadreuffe learns that his mother is sick, and later she dies and we see him at her funeral.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Why Joba refused to marry Dreverhaven and/or why she's emotionally distant toward her son.
  • Growing up without a father close in the family.
  • What Dreverhaven's real motivation was toward his son.
  • VIOLENCE
  • A man elbows a window, breaking it, so that he can get inside a building.
  • Dreverhaven drags a woman -- and the bed she's lying on -- out onto the street where he unceremoniously dumps her from it.
  • Some school kids push Katadreuffe (who's also a child) down some steps.
  • Another kid then pushes Katadreuffe into the mud. Katadreuffe then grabs that kid and begins choking him on the street until he's pulled away.
  • A police officer hits a boy, who's stolen some bread, with his billy club (heard more than seen) as they interrogate the boys.
  • A police officer struggles with Katadreuffe (now an older boy) who then does something to the officer that causes him to scream in pain and hold his hands over his face.
  • Katadreuffe knocks over several items in his mother's house in a violent outburst.
  • The police burst into a communist meeting and hit the people with their billy clubs and some punches are thrown.
  • Dreverhaven goes to serve an eviction notice in a neighborhood surrounded by police/soldiers. After posting the notice, he's shot at several times by someone in the dark. We eventually see the man who aims his gun point blank at Dreverhaven and pulls the trigger, but he's out of bullets. That man is then shot in the head and killed by one of the officers/soldiers.
  • In a dream, Dreverhaven confronts an angry mob. A woman then comes up and throws something that hits him that then causes the mob to rush forward and begin beating him.
  • Dreverhaven and Katadreuffe meet in a dark alley and the father pushes his son backwards and then to the ground trying to instigate something. He then pulls out a knife and throws it at his son, but misses.
  • Katadreuffe tries to jump Dreverhaven who throws him off to the side. The two men then fight some more with the father repeatedly kicking and then punching his son and then smashing him into some shelves. The son then bites his father on the face and smashes a chair onto him before pushing some shelves that crash onto him. Katadreuffe then takes his father's knife and prepares to stab him, but stops.
  • A man stabs himself with a knife in his gut and then purposefully falls several stories to his death.



  • Reviewed April 10, 1998

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