Fantasia Film Festival: The Columnist Review

The Columnist

Ivo van Aart’s The Columnist follows Femke Boot, a writer who takes matters into her own hands after being constantly harassed online. In an increasingly connected world, the Internet can bring out the best in people, but it can also bring out the worst in people. As a whole, humanity has a dark side to them, but most humans elect to restrain that side of ourselves. However, for a select group of people, they unleash that dark side of themselves behind the comfort of their computer. The Columnist examines what happens when an obsession with the Internet fully unleashes our darkest desires and inner monster upon the world. The Columnist is not just a slasher film — it also provides a meaningful commentary about the toxicity of the Internet. 

In the opening scenes, the film exposes a lot of the toxicity found on social media and in the comments section. After all, there is a reason why the phrase “don’t read the comments” exists in the first place. Everyone has an opinion and is not afraid to share it online. What The Columnist reveals is that these online trolls are just everyday people in person. They could be your friendly next-door neighbor or a young 15-year-old. Yet their hateful and egregious comments will have you focusing more on their comments than the people themselves. Their actions are why there is a certain sense of satisfaction when Femke murders her first victim. It also helps that the murders are slightly skewed towards the whimsical black comedy side. So each murder has a bit of fun to it. 

Much like the people she is murdering, Femke Boot has a happy and normal life. She is dating a supportive boyfriend, her daughter loves her, and she has a successful writing career. Unfortunately, her obsession with social media and the toxic comments section is what brings us back to the central theme of the film. Despite all of the warnings, Femke Boot still cannot help herself. This message about disconnecting oneself from social media and technology is fantastic for today’s society. Of course, that is easier said than done since curiosity is also another trait of human nature. 

The Columnist - Katja Herbers

However, the more Femke’s character develops, the more you realize what a monster she is. As Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent said in The Dark Knight, “you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” That quote is what happens to Femke Boot in The Columnist. What starts as a crusade to murder those cyber-bullies who have wronged her becomes something else entirely for her. She ultimately becomes a monster worse than the trolls she is murdering. As a result, she quickly goes from being a sympathetic character to someone you begin to fear. Director Ivo van Aart does a fantastic job of gradually shifting the Femke Boot character from one side to the other. 

Of course, none of this would be possible if it were not for the exceptional performance by Katja Herbers. Herbers plays Femke Boot with such agility that she can go from sarcastic joker to fearsome at the drop of a hat. Herbers also display a wide array of emotions throughout the film. All of this equates to a layered and flawed character that you both love and hate. 

Overall, The Columnist is not your average slasher film. Its commentary about the dangers of social media and cyber-bullying is what sets The Columnist apart from other films in the genre. Cyber-bullying is a huge problem in society, and The Columnist puts a spotlight on it in its own unique way. Femke Boot is the anti-hero that all victims of cyber-bullying want to be, which is a scary thought. Yet The Columnist puts the mirror in front of the viewer and asks them the question: “Is this the person you want to become?” This self-reflection is what makes this film a must-watch for the digital age.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

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