Oscar’d for Best Foreign Pic*, Mike van Diem’s film adaptation of this Dutch Bildungsroman comes off as faux Dickens, discards from GREAT EXPECTATIONS.* We follow an ambitious chap of unconventional parentage as he overcomes all obstacles and finds his life's vocation at a law office. Posh in design and cast with memorable faces in every role, it still feels completely canned. Van Diem wields a florid technique that calls too much attention to itself, dazzling himself rather than serving his story. If only he’d put the same thought & energy into narrative & motivation. As it stands, the one-note characterizations can’t support the socio-political weight he asks for, and it makes the sadistic Capitalistic lending tactics of the boy’s tacetly acknowledged father come off as contrivance instead of powerful allegory. The fault may well stem from source material that doesn’t much distinguish between self-defeating stubbornness & self-deluding stupidity, but that hardly let’s van Diem off the hook.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: *If you want to see GREAT EXPECTATIONS, go for the real thing, particularly David Lean’s lightened 1946 beauty.
SCREWY THOUGH OF THE DAY: *Oscar’s® Foreign Pic winners have always been a crap shoot. Nevertheless, someone must have noted what a clunker this was since van Diem has (uniquely in this winner’s club) never made another pic. (Info per IMDb.com.) Yet, look at the critical encomiums that show up on the DVD packaging from some of our more prominent reviewers! File under, ‘You can fool all of the people some of the time.'