An undercover state cop who has infiltrated an Irish gang and a mole in the police force working for the same mob race to track down and identify each other before being exposed to the enemy, after both sides realize their outfit has a rat.
J.W. Katadreuffe is the son of Joba Katadreuffe and A.B. Drevenhaven. Though fully neglected by Joba, Dreverhaven ensures the succesfull career of his son. Mostly unseen, though he sues his son a few times. The son Katadreuffe succeeds, but at great costs. Written by
Klaas van Gend <Klaas@vangend.demon.nl>
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.
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