Character (1997)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Period Film, Family Drama, Psychological Drama  |   Release Date - Mar 27, 1998 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 125 min.  |   Countries - Netherlands  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Combining the dense texture of a Dickens novel with an almost existential outlook on life, Character seems at once a throwback of a story and a very modern tale. It begins with a murder and a police interrogation that easily yields a confession, so the emphasis is on why, not who. The viewer can sense that the victim -- a bull-necked man with penetrating gaze -- may in fact be an evil man, and as the flashback story begins to unfold, that does seem to be the case. But the strength of Character lies in its portrayal of Dreverhaven, brilliantly played by Jan Decleir as a man struggling with his own selfishness and greed. Driven to succeed, his one hope in the world lies in his illegitimate son, whom he pushes mercilessly. That his own son would grow up to be his undoing rather than his salvation is the story's supreme irony. Character is shot in muddy browns and muted grays, color schemes that suggest a world without brightness or hope. It is a grim story, but it's told with an almost exhilarating sense of style and purpose.