Character

Directed with a keen eye for contrast and peppered with oblique references to Dickens and Kafka, Mike van Diem's Character (which won the Best Foreign Film Oscar) is a slick, brutally visual adaptation of a popular Dutch novel about an estranged young man's intense and frightening battle of wills with his oppressive father. Robert Downey Jr. lookalike Fedja van Huet plays the son with a nervous and angry excitement, his ambition so strong that it cuts all sources of love from his life. His cold mother (Betty Shuurman) doesn't coddle him, support him, or even speak to him, silently wishing he would just vanish from her life. As if things weren't tough enough, van Huet's father is the most hated and feared man in the city, known for evicting the poor at a moment's notice. It's this character, played by Jan Decleir, that haunts you after the movie ends. Decleir personifies pure malicious evil, his imposing bailiff a Darth Vader-like figure whose self-loathing leads to self-destructive tendencies. Van Diem does an amazing job replicating 1920s Rotterdam on a small budget, and his adept direction and grasp of the story is remarkable. If Character is any indication, van Diem has a bright future.

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