Femke Boot (Katja Herbers) is the type of feminist writer that a lot of trolls often target. Whether she writes about mundane things or political social issues, Boot is under constant attack online, a situation that is only getting worse. At first, she threatens to quit social media, but hatred continues to flow. She tries to report the harassment to the police, but no one takes her fears of death threats and online violence seriously. Soon she is consumed by the internet vitriol, unable to put her phone down in a distorted masochistic version of scrolling doom. Her obsession with what strangers say about her line threatens her relationship with her high school daughter (Claire Porro) and a new boyfriend (Bram van der Kelen) who also happens to be a writer and understands part of what ‘she lives. Finally, she takes pictures and takes her own action by killing her stalkers one by one. Once the deed is done, she cuts off the troll’s middle finger in remembrance of each troll who once used her to make life difficult for her.
“The Columnist” plays on very real fears and realistic scenarios. It is sad how common the experience of online harassment is for women and people of color who become targets of strangers for simply existing on these platforms. But while the film is rooted in a core of truth, “The Chronist” obviously has a different agenda. When he switches into his revenge thriller mode, Boot’s character changes as well. She is no longer a worried, overworked and anxious single mom, now she is purposeful and dangerous. She is not irreproachable in her violence, her murders are sometimes the result of a passionate error but just effective enough to get away with it. She may be a feminist columnist who stands up for the moral value of articles, but when she yells at various morons that they should have been nicer before they killed them, she loses that ground. In seeking revenge, she essentially negates the courtesy she calls for because as the film bitterly reveals, her attacks do little to silence all of her attackers. It is a bigger problem than a handful of people. It’s something more sinister about these platforms and the way their algorithm rewards and kids anger and hate. This is how you can spend all day reporting attacks and offensive characters, but the descendants of social media will do little to actually help the targets of these harassment campaigns. The film, of course, is not interested in these big systemic ideas or even the naming of the misogynistic attacks that Boot suffers. This is just food for the film’s true purpose: bloody retribution.
Ultimately, Van Aart’s “The Columnist” has surprisingly little to say about online violence against women. He further expands the idea of how these seemingly insignificant messages can silence a woman’s voice, and in Boot’s daughter Anna’s experience, how established male figures like her director can also muzzle. his opinion. But the film’s singular focus on Boot’s quest for revenge eliminates many of the film’s other glitches for cheap thrills. The scenes are horrific by nature, but not particularly memorable. Neither van Aart nor cinematographer Martijn Cousijn makes these scenes particularly tense (until the last two confrontations of the end) or stylish. If van Aart wanted to embark on the sinister story of a columnist seeking revenge on her tormentors, why visually hold back from this premise? “The Columnist” strikes more like a horror film by one note, less intellectually deep than its original introduction.
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