The Columnist

review May 6, 2021

It doesn’t take much digging to find a troll on the internet. If you have some amount of fame, whether as an actor, singer, painter, journalist, whatever, someone out there is going to hate you, and they will let you know it. It’s often why a lot of celebrities stay off of social media and don’t read the comments on any articles about them. Luckily, I am not famous enough as a writer to have people sending me hateful messages, but I know that if I ever do, it’s something that comes along with the territory.

“…spree of murders where all the victims are people who just don’t know how to be nice.”

In the Dutch film, The Columnist, Katja Herbers plays Femke Boot, a columnist for Volksrant, an online publication. She’s also working on her first novel. We first meet Femke on a political talk show where she’s arguing that people on the internet need to learn how to accept opinions other than their own and not consider someone on the other side of the debate their enemy. We soon see that Femke is obsessed with checking Twitter and Facebook, where she often sees negative commentary about her writing. She often checks these sites when she’s supposed to be working on her book.

Just when Femke begins writing, her next-door neighbor decides to start construction of a fence that distracts her from working. The neighbor, Arjen Tol (Rein Hofman), seems nice enough, even though we do see him once inexplicably in blackface, but soon Femke discovers that he is one of the people who has been making negative comments about her online and that he is extremely conservative, where she is extremely liberal. She snaps and one night kicks down the fence that he just built, and then in even further aggression, pushes him off the roof while he is working on it and then cuts his middle finger off.

This starts Femke’s spree of murders where all the victims are people who just don’t know how to be nice. Somehow, Femke’s late-night activities are missed by her daughter Anna (Claire Porro) and boyfriend Erik Flenderman, aka Steven Dood (Bram van der Kelen), who is a horror author. Steven has a very edgy goth persona but is actually very grounded and peaceful. If anything, Femke’s inner life matches Steven’s outer appearance. It doesn’t take long until Anna finds her mother’s “tool-kit,” but automatically assumes it belongs to Steven.

“… a hilariously subversive satire of being internet famous…”

Writer Daan Windhorst and director Ivo van Aart deliver a hilariously subversive satire of being internet famous, as well as the global political divide amongst common people. It’s also interesting that the film is technically about a female serial killer, which would make it novel enough. But the fact that the killings are shown as kind of an afterthought is incredibly fascinating. Femke sees herself as a vigilante for all the nice people in the world. She doesn’t see her madness, blaming others instead. The Columnist is a bitingly clever observation of the internet of today, which is a microcosm of the world at large.

There are so many topics explored throughout The Columnist: family, politics, writer’s block, and, most importantly, manners. It’s a short film, coming in at under 90 minutes, but it packs quite an intellectual and psychological wallop. I found myself blown away by the final scene, and in general, by Katja Herber’s unflinching no-nonsense performance. The Columnist is that rare mix of comedy and horror that isn’t too cheesy or over the top. It’s also definitely one of my favorite films of 2020 so far. Be sure to check out this blood-soaked satire as soon as you can.

By Lorry Kikta


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