Picks and Pans Review: Character

updated 04/13/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/13/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Fedja van Huet, Jan Decleir

This is the Dutch movie—though there is not a tulip or windmill in sight—that nabbed the Academy Award for Best Foreign Picture last month. Based on a classic Dutch novel published in 1938 by Ferdinand Bordewijk (not exactly a household name over here), Character is a dark, brooding drama that follows a young man's difficult rise from poverty to membership in a fancy law firm in 1920s Rotterdam. For most of the movie, he is also doing battle with the shadow of his tyrannical, manipulative, brooding father, a man his mother refused to marry and whom our protagonist glimpses only occasionally and always at a distance.

Character has the sweep and moral power of a Charles Dickens tale, but it lacks the colorful subsidiary characters and humor that make Dickens so memorable. What's left is lots and lots of Plot und Drang. (R)

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