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Character (1997)

Karakter (original title)
Jacob Katadreuffe lives mute with his mother, has no contact with his father who only works against him and wants to become a lawyer, at all costs.



(short story "Dreverhaven en Katadreuffe" and novel "Karakter") (as F. Bordewijk), (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

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Won 1 Oscar. Another 16 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Betty Schuurman ...
Tamar van den Dop ...
Lorna Te George
De Gankelaar
Hans Kesting ...
Lou Landré ...
Bernard Droog ...
Frans Vorstman ...
Inspecteur de Bree
Fred Goessens ...
Jasper Gottlieb ...
Jacob 6 jaar
Marius Gottlieb ...
Jacob 6 jaar
Pavlik Jansen op de Haar ...
Jacob 12 jaar
Marisa Van Eyle ...
Jiffrouw Sibculo
Wim Van Der Grijn ...
2e Inspecteur


In the 20's, in Netherlands, Jacob Willem Katadreuffe has just concluded the law school and has an argument with the High Court Enforcement Officer Dreverhaven at his office. Katadreuffe leaves the place covered in blood. On the next morning, he is arrested by the police for the murder of Dreverhaven. He claims that he is innocent and discloses the story of his life to the Chief of Police. His mother Joba was the maid at Dreverhaven. One night, she is raped by him and a couple of weeks later she learns that she is pregnant. Dreverhaven proposes to marry her but Joba quits her job and leaves his house. Along the years, Katadreuffe is bullied at school and called bastard by his mates and his mother never talks to him. One day, he is involved by other kids in a theft of bread and arrested by the police. When he calls his biological father to help him, Dreverhaven tells the police that he does not know who Katadreuffe is. The boy is intelligent and learns English reading a superseded and ... Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




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Release Date:

27 March 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Character  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$4,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$37,268 (USA) (27 March 1998)


$713,413 (USA) (5 June 1998)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Filming took place over the course of 71 days in the summer and fall of 1996. See more »


In one of the street scenes, you can see an extra in modern outfit and with no headwear on. See more »


[first lines]
Jacob Katadreuffe: I came to tell you. Today I have been sworn in as a lawyer. You must be sorry but I am sworn in and this is the last time I'll come here. Farewell for ever. You no longer exist for me.
Dreverhaven: Congratulations.
Jacob Katadreuffe: You congratulate me? I can't take your hand. The hand of someone who always opposed me.
Dreverhaven: Or helped.
Dreverhaven: Or helped.
See more »


Featured in The 79th Annual Academy Awards (2007) See more »

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User Reviews

1 August 2005 | by (Amsterdam) – See all my reviews

Many people describe the movie as distant and cold. But that's exactly what the makers were aiming for to stay congruent with the 2 novels of Bordewijk where Karakter / Character is based upon. Bordewijk's style is often described as Nieuwe Zakelijkheid (best translation: New Objectivity, think Sinclair Lewis), a counter movement to the upcoming Expressionism in the 20s of the last century. Instead of the idealism of Expressionists more emphasis was put on reality, objectivity and facts in a sober and distant form with little room for frivolity, superficial beauty, sentimentality or explaining behavior. Not only does the style of the novels reflect this, the world the characters inhabit has the same characteristics. Viewed from this standpoint they made an amazing adaptation from a novel, correct in both style and content. But the movie defines more than an art movement, because the characters portrayed tell a lot about the Dutch in general, and this in a way also defines Dutch national identity.

The story itself is about perseverance. Jacob is the son of a relation without love. His parents never marry, the mother leaves soon after she finds out she is pregnant. His mother is stubborn, his father a man without compassion working as a bailiff. Both parents push their son in their own way, his mother almost drives him out of her home, his father lends him money thus starting a battle over the upper hand in their relationship. The father brings adversity to his son in the hope to make him stronger. In line with the style of the novel none of the characters ever experience love. In fact the whole movie contains not one passionate scene. The only character showing emotion (De Gankelaar, an excellent role played by Victor Löw) leaves the country. It has a Nietzschian philosophical angle with the debate of lightness and weight: Jacob's burdens give his life a meaning, but are the sacrifices worth it?

Location scouts did a wonderful job here, because Karakter recreates pre-war Rotterdam, a city almost totally flattened by the Nazis (There is a harrowing photo of the city after the bombardments with only the main church still standing). The production and art departments made the sets with their darkish colors fitting the form and content of the movie. The camera is used in a way to create some fluidity in the scenes: It almost never is static as with so many character dramas.

Fedja van Huêt as Jacob and Jan Decleir as Dreverhaven seem to understand what's going on here and act accordingly. Tamar van den Dop as Lorna is probably the greatest weakness in the movie, with a terrible diction and limited body movement she's miscast here.

Mike van Diem makes only one movie, wins an Oscar, and disappears almost from the earth. Although rumor has it he does some script doctoring in Hollywood, with his current production rate he will surpass even Malick. As for now, this is by far the best Dutch movie ever made.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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What's up with Lorna? animalangels
Ending ozpa
It's a strange way for a father to love his son... mpsgs710
'Karakter' means 'I love you' in Thai spelling!!! bscale
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