In a Dickensian 1920s Rotterdam, the death of Dreverhaven (Declair), one of the city's most powerful bailiffs, sends shockwaves through the city. Young lawyer Jacob Katadreuffe (Huet) was the last man to see him alive and is brought in for questioning by the authorities. As the officer's query unfolds, Jacob tells an incredible story, revealing a close link between the two men. It seems Dreverhaven was Jacob's illegitimate father, and the pair engaged in a silent battle of wills throughout the young man's life. Did their strife lead directly to Dreverhaven's death, or were there other forces and factors at play?
It's really no surprise that "Character" won the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1998. Its sumptuous production design and stunning cinematography transport you fully to this long-departed time and place, and the story itself (co-written by van Diem and adapted from a classic Dutch novel by Ferdinand Bordewijk) is every bit as nuanced, evocative, and rich. If "Character" were a novel, it could fit easily on the shelf between "Great Expectations" and "Nicholas Nickelby."