Character

 

In Rotterdam in the Twenties, young lawyer Jacob Katadreuffe, still an apprentice, is arrested despite claiming to be innocent of murder. He’s accused of murdering Dreverhaven, banker and bailiff fought at a distance by Jacob throughout his youth, as recalled during the interrogation. Dreverhaven has been one of the most relentless persecutors of the working class in town, acting mercilessly during evictions. Jacob is the illegitimate son of Dreverhaven and his maid, Joba. Grown up in poverty, he tried to break free but, after having got a loan to buy a tobacco shop, he ended up in bankruptcy and had to stand trial for debts. Nevertheless, he manages to climb the hierarchy despite the hostility of his father who turns out to be the owner of the bank that granted the loan.

The title of the film would undoubtedly have been more suitable to represent this story: in fact “Character” is the perfect synthesis of the conflict that Van Diem enacts, the one , between ironclad personalities not willing to bend. The strongest of the three is Joba, the silent mother at the center of the struggle between the other two.

Winning the Oscar as best foreign film, this movie is adapted from two stories by Ferdinand Bordewijk; it fields many questions without resolving any, intentionally. The purpose of Van Diem is to tell the story of the characters and to see it through, not to provide answers. And this is certainly an advantage, because at the end of the movie, however, we feel the story is concluded, without false morality and without emotionally blackmailing endings. The characters are tragic masks, victims and executioners at the same time in a drama that has its roots in the function of money, the true focus of the story, and in the Calvinist morals.

One gets the impression of having read a novel, rather than having watched a movie, so intense is the literary plot. Yet the pace is great, the story holds up well and the screenplay is flawless: a perfect device to be watched, with a palpable and engaging tension, built, for once, not as a silly little action movie, but as a story of a very different caliber.

The film making is perfect, I’d say even in a workmanlike manner, as for the period reconstruction, and perhaps because of this a bit cold: but this is an obvious choice, given the coldness of both the landscape and the characters that live in it. Also impeccable are the actors, each perfect in his role.

If auteur cinema had many more screenplays written so well to base a film, probably much of the public wouldn’t be discouraged.

Translation by Silvia Accorrà (edited by Chiara Canova and Robert Mardle)

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Heiko H. Caimi
Author and screenwriter, he has been teaching Creative Writing since 1999. He collaborated with the Publisher Tranchida from 2007 to 2009 as a teacher at Forrester School, as a member of the management board and as an editor of the editorial board, as well as an author of the on-line magazines "Gluck59" and "Teneke". He has worked as a writer of short stories with Mondadori and GVE publishers and publishes short stories, articles, reviews and poems with various on-line magazines. He participated as a poet in the VII Annual Carovana dei Versi (Caravan of Verses) in 2012-2013, and some of his works have been be published in 2013 in an anthology by the publishing house Abrigliasciolta of Varese. He has taught courses on writing and screenwriting at the Egea Bookstore of Bocconi University in Milan, at I.I.S. A.Lunardi in Brescia in several libraries and associations in the district of Brescia and in some Swiss schools. A film for which he wrote the screenplay has been optioned twice. He worked as a writer in an international production ("Haiti Voodoo", 2011). A long time ago he played in several bands and collaborated on several short films. He currently lives and works in Brescia. Since 2002 he has been Chairman of Magnoliaitalia, and since 2013 he has been teacher and Conductor at the Writing Parlour in Brescia, a professional school for writers.