Social media can be a great thing. It can educate, bring awareness to, allow people far apart to communicate, provide tears or laughs, and even allow us to not feel alone. However, as with most things, when you add in the human element it is all a wildcard. There are some good things, but just as much bad. We have all at least witnessed inappropriate behaviour on social media. Bullying, cruelty and other types of inappropriateness. Many of us have been on the receiving end of something online which did not make us feel great. For the most part we either brush it or laugh it off. There are those rare occasions where the bad behaviour brings about an equal reaction.
At first glance, divorced single mother and columnist Femki Boot (Katja Herbers – from television’s Westworld) seems like your typical mild mannered writer. Living a rather quiet life and happy with it. That is until she becomes a target on Twitter
The anonymity of being behind a keyboard seems to embolden people. Most say things on Instagram, Twitter or on Facebook that we never would to a person’s face. Because people disagree with what Femke, who is in the process of writing a novel, has said on a talk show, she becomes the target of all kinds of people on Twitter. From the criticisms of her intellect, what she writes or how she looks all the way to vicious, hate filled threats.
After absorbing it for a little while, finally she just snaps. But snaps in a way you might not expect. Revenge soon becomes the pen she wields.
A dark (quite dark) comedy, The Columnist works on most levels. First and foremost is the job done by lead actress Katja Herbers. She is totally believable in both sides of her character. The rather tame average woman and also a a woman who has snapped. She is mad and not going to take it anymore.
If you are going to do social commentary in a film you better do it well. Or right off the hop your film is going to be based on a shaky foundation. Internet culture has often been looked at in film because it is such a prevalent part of the world today. Here is a different way of looking at it instead of the target becoming a victim. It turns that completely on its head and Ivo van Aart’s film exposes the hypocrisy involved. Because it is sharply written by Daan Windhorst the message is not rammed home. It is there – clear and evident, however.
Another aspect of the story is how obsessed we are with social media. Femke spends a lot of time looking at the comments. Even after the vitriol begins. She knows it is going to be there, but cannot stay away. She even goes as far as getting rid of her phone. Though that doesn’t work as she cannot stay away so looks at it from her boyfriend’s phone.
The whole idea of kindness comes up here. Why can people not just be nice? Why can’t we disagree with someone, but still respect them as a person. Why do we attack those who think differently? Especially in the era of Trump this becomes a rather valid and important question.