THE COLUMNIST (De Kuthoer)
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Ivo van Aart
Writer: Daan Windhorst
Cast: Katja Herbers, Genio de Groot, Rein Hofman, Bram van der Kelen, Achraf Koutet, Claire Porro
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC,
Opens: May 7, 2021
This Dutch treat has a special resonance for me. A film reviewer who is a member of my critics’ group has been known to be a contrarian. He delivers his opinions and does not try to be different from others, but often he just is. As a result he had caused movies on Rotten Tomatoes to be 99% fresh or, in converse, to cause movies that are 99% rotten to be fresh. All this occurred during the years that Rotten Tomatoes allowed people to comment on the reviews, a nice, democratic policy, but young people (mainly) being young people, scores of folks probably in high school resented his “ruining” a picture by depriving it of the rare 100% accolades. They tormented him on the computer with comments that got nastier by the week and went overboard. Some began calling him at his home at all hours. I don’t know how he resolved this dilemma, but Rotten Tomatoes took action and no longer allows any comments.
Recall that Twitter had banned our last President from posting, given the regularly false statements that may have been tweeted by him when he was in his bathrobe at four in the morning, but imagine how many people he would have criticized on Twitter if that medium of communication did not ban him. Wait! He did attack scores, maybe hundreds of people. Imaging what would have happened if the people being taunted in those tweets followed the trajectory of Femke Boot (Katja Herbers), a Dutch columnist working on her debut novel, but caught up by the Internet comments about her journal columns. She beccomes so incensed by the critics, most of whom do not follow the elegant editorial policies of fine newspapers like NRS Handelsblad and Het Parool, but let loose with every vulgarism known to the Netherlands.
Yet these vulgar comments should not have bothered Femke. Didn’t she regularly take a stand in her writings on Free Speech, a value in which her teen daughter Anna (Clarie Porro) concurs in her own high-school newspaper columns? Hypocrites tend to forget their values when they are themselves attacked but not to the extent that Femke does. She used the ‘net to discover her critics’ addresses and in a succession of incidents she drowns, throws, stabs, shoots, and electrocutes one nasty person after another. In her first act, she throws her neighbor from his roof after discovering that he had made negative comments about her online. She cuts off his finger as a trophy, winding up eventually with enough to refit a person born with no digits at all.
She makes mistakes. She keeps the fingers and the murder weapons hidden in her home in places not at all difficult for her daughter or boyfriend Steven Dood (Bram van der Kelen) to find. In cases of mistaken identity, she kills the wrong persons. In another error, she is too cute for words. Aren’t serial killers supposed to be gnarled, scarred, sneering dicks? Yes, if this were a regular murder mystery, a cloak-and-dagger spy thriller, a detective story that raises the pulse. Instead, and happily so, this is a dark comedy, a satire, one meant for viewers to smile, even laugh as though everyone on the screen is winking as if to say “Hey, nothing here is meant to be taken seriously.” Nonetheless, I found my heart racing during some of the scenes such as one in which an elderly man runs from her as she takes careful aim with the man’s own rifle. One in which a teenager, whose father she kills by mistake, begs her not to shoot. Even right in the beginning, when she sneaks up on her neighbor poised to toss him to his death.
In other words, Ivo van Aart’s third full-length film is effective cinema, his breakthrough, blessed with easy-to-read English titles, one that could have you thinking during its too-brief 86 minutes that maybe Holland is not so different from the U.S. Yes, if this were really a serious murder mystery, you could think that before you come to you senses, but of course the Netherlands is no way like our Wild West, making it fairly clear that the whole bit is a parody. Well done.
86 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B+