Rotterdam, 1920's. An aspiring young lawyer, Katadreuffe (FEDJA VAN HUET), is arrested after the city's most feared bailiff, Dreverhaven (JAN DECLEIR) is found murdered. The young man claims to be innocent. Through a series of flashbacks during a police interrogation, Katadreuffe's version of the events leading up to the crime is recounted.
Katadreuffe was born the illegitimate son of Joba Katadreuffe (BETTY SCHUURMAN), a simple but proud woman, and Dreverhaven, whom she refuses to marry. Raised in poverty, Katadreuffe follows an austere and strict lifestyle until his mother takes in a lodger, Jan Maan (HANS KESTING), who encourages Katadreuffe to improve his social standing. Katadreuffe obtains a loan which he decides to invest in a tobacco store. This endeavour proves to be a complete financial disaster and Katadreuffe is left bankrupt.
Katadreuffe then discovers that Dreverhaven, his father, presides over the bank which originally gave him the loan and to whom he is indebted. He begins negotiations with the law firm of Stroomkoning and in the process, spellbound by the power and sense of establishment emanating from their offices, decides to become a lawyer.
Despite his self-schooled education, Katadreuffe uses a wily sense of initiative to get himself hired as a clerk at the firm, and begins, what he hopes, will be a path of social and financial ascension. In the process, he meets, and falls in love with a young secretary, Lorna Te George (TAMAR VAN DEN DOP). His success is hampered, however, by his history of bankruptcy and the constant, looming presence of his father whom he is convinced wishes to ruin all of his career prospects.
As Katadreuffe and Dreverhaven seek to destroy each other, their struggle evolves into a compelling story of passion and ambition in which the wrong-doing of both father and son is exposed ... with unexpected consequences.
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