In pre-war Rotterdam, the bailiff Dreverhaven is a tyrant in his realm. His ambitious and stubborn bastardson Katadreuffe decides, after a bankruptcy, to become a lawyer. He puts everything aside to achieve his goal, including his girlfriend. The clash with Dreverhaven is inevitable. Van Diem's dramatic debut, based on a classic novel by Bordewijk, won a Golden Calf for Best Film and an Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film.