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The complexities of a father-son relationship build as time goes by with little communication between Katadreuffe and his father Dreverhaven in the 1997 film Karakter from the Netherlands. Director Mike van Diem begins at the end of the story when Katadreuffe and Dreverhaven finally communicate with each other in a physically violent and psychologically intense scene. "A rather bold move on Van Diem's part," some might think. But, Van Diem is able to pull the audience through the events which lead up to this climax with no trouble at all.
The rest of the movie explains this opening scene in some ways, but what makes this movie and story so extraordinary is how it explores the complexity of relationships which can't be explained. It is impossible to really establish a character without showing an audience much of what has made them. This movie succeeds in developing its characters, but refuses to explain them. There is no happy ending, nor is there a particularly resolved one, either. Van Diem, in this way, gives his audience a bit of reality, but does so without trivializing the merits of dramatics and fiction. Van Diem explores eccentricities which, perhaps, don't exist anywhere other than on the film which captures them.
Dreverhaven is an eccentric man from the beginning and Katadreuffe is born into this eccentricity, though he ends up quite normal given the circumstances. Van Diem utilizes the creative potential of film to its fullest with his dramatic use of color, costume and movement. Dreverhaven's swooping cape and intensely dark hair all add to his character's impact. The dreary gray cityscape where Dreverhaven dwells contrasts the warm wood-paneled law office where Katadreuffe strives to be a lawyer. Despite Van Diem's use of incredibly beautiful contrasting colors and other dramatizing techniques, never is the film distanced from the reality of the situations it probes. The characters may be eccentric, but they are quite real nonetheless. And, the audience feels this reality intensely. It would be difficult for any daughter or son -- which includes all of us -- to not feel the pain and pride which Dreverhaven and Katadreuffe simultaneously feel for each other. This movie reveals a subject to its audience which has existed as long as sons and fathers have existed, yet it is a revelation. Everyone should see it.