By Guest Reviewer Arjan Writes
Even though "Character" is not a queer movie, it most certainly has thematic aspects that gays can relate to. The sublime "Karakter" is a Dutch production directed by Mike van Diem that won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1998. It is a modern film noir set in the gray and depressed city of Rotterdam, The Netherlands in the 1920s.
Written by famous Dutch author Frederik Bordewijk, "Karakter" tells the story of Jacob Katadreuffe (Fedja van Huet) and the strained relationship he has with his father Dreverhaven (Jan Decleir). The movie starts out with the mysterious death of Dreverhaven, whose will leaves everything to Jacob (who finds out only then that Dreverhaven was his father). Jacob is interrogated by the police and the plot unfolds through story flashbacks.
Jacob was born out of wedlock and raised by his single mother. Jacob's biological father is the influential bailiff and banker Dreverhaven, who is feared across the city for his harsh business manners. Growing up, a tumultuous relationship develops between father and son who keep running into each other. Jacob (not knowing Dreverhaven is his father) takes out several loans from Dreverhaven to start his own business. But when everything fails, Dreverhaven treats him like any other customer and demands his money back, which eventually leads to Jacob's bankruptcy.
Motivated by anger and frustration, Jacob climbs out of poverty to become one of the city's most successful lawyers. Now, father and son often battle in court. During a final confrontation, Dreverhaven dies and Jacob is suspected of murder.
The question for viewers remains if Dreverhaven was so hard on his son because he wanted to make him strong or because he never accepted him as his own. Regardess of the answer, Jacob's biggest obstacle and source of frustration also became a source of inspiration and motivation that made him a success.
"Karakter" is a touching movie that not only features an epic duel between father and son, but is also an ultimate coming-of-age story.The underlying theme of the movie is that you can be who you want to be, no matter what people expect from you.
The movie is in Dutch with English sub-titles. The Dutch language might be a bit abrasive at first but you'll get used to it quickly. This is one of my favorite movies (and not only because my native language is Dutch).
[QB Note: SPOILER AHEAD]