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Karakter (1997)

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
Hans Kesting ...
Jan Maan
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 The boy is intelligent and learns English reading a superseded and ...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 USA:

$37,268, 29 March 1998, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$713,413, 7 June 1998
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Based on the novel 'Karakter' and the short story 'Dreverhave and Katadreuffe' by dutch writer F. Bordewijk (1884-1965). 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 »


Referenced in De boekverfilming (1999) See more »

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User Reviews

Beautifully filmed 1920's "Rotterdam"
10 April 2004 | by See all my reviews

It is not too frequent that we get Dutch programmes of films or TV-minis in this corner of Europe, and when they do appear it is thanks to the regional Basque TV Station `EITB'. Indeed over two years has passed since seeing the excellent mini `Charlotte Sophie Bentinck' (1996) (qv) and seeing the very interesting `Karakter' recently.

Set in the 1920's this film has excellent mise-en-scéne wonderfully photographed, mostly in Holland and Belgium, but with some scenes shot in Wroclaw, Poland, with street-cars of the times, in which the darkened almost greyish brickwork of the tenement buildings and the industrial port areas takes on an intense protagonism in the film's development. Palais van Boem's musical contribution is mostly just right, though at times seemed to be a little boorish.

A young, illegitimate boy grows up with his unmarried mother, whilst the father, Dreverhaven, continuously appeals to her to marry him, but always rejected. However, the father seems to do everything possible to disrupt the young man's life, as his mother becomes more and more detached and uncaring. It would seem that Dreverhaven is playing out a real-life game of chess around his son Jacob, as if trying to corner him into submission and apathy, but which the young man manages to survive. The psychological impression is that one or the other would undo his `bitter foe', but that despite the father's vast fortune and power the struggle of will would rebound against him.But as the Dutch saying goes: ‘De één zijn dood, is de ander zijn brood'

This is no `thriller' in the ordinary sense, more a psychological suspense which requires attention throughout. The acting is magnificent: both Fedja van Huêt and Jan Decleir play out their parts with just the right touch, especially Decleir, and Lou Landré as Rentenstein is almost spellbinding, not to be missed.

Here is another example of the unarguable fact: here in Europe we make cinema, not blockbuster box-office hits.

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