Monday, January 3, 2011

CHARACTER (1997)

Set in the early 1900's, the boringly-titled CHARACTER tells the story of a stern quiet man who bangs his maid once and they produce a baby boy. She leaves before the child is born and the man stalks her and even proposes to her, but she refuses over and over. The child grows up, but the woman is not much of a mother. She rarely speaks and doesn't have a loving nature. Despite this the boy grows into a successful young man and even goes to law school. Throughout all of this his father and him have a quiet (and sometimes violent) ongoing war of wits to shows each other who's the boss.

The characters in CHARACTER are so rich that watching the movie is almost like reading a novel. It's like the darker elements of a Dickens novel come to live. A poor boy with no future rises from the ghetto purely by his intelligence and his intense hatred of his father. While the father who goes out of his way to torture the boy because he thinks it will make him strong.

Excellent performances by everybody (especially Jan Decleir as the brutal father), impressive costumes, nice photography.  I don't know how well it would hold up under repeat viewings, it's easy to see why it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.