Fantasia International Film Festival: The Columnist (2019) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

The Columnist (2019) will not work for anyone who can’t get on board with a black comedy. In a time when trolling is at its worst and it seems negativity runs rampant on all social media – especially here in the states – this film operates as a sadistic dark fantasy that scratches an itch most would prefer to ignore. A horrific “What if” escapist affair with enough comedic pieces given by actors who are given tremendous performances with exceptional visuals by director Ivo van Aart, The Columnist is absolutely a film worth one’s time and is currently a part of the Fantasia International Film Festival.

Femke Boot (Katja Herbers) is a columnist for a paper, as well as an aspiring novelist who is suffering from writer’s block. She has become obsessed with reading the many negative comments, tweets, and Facebook posts about her and her work. The insanity of some of the comments starts to chip away at her own sanity, and she decides to seek revenge for those who are just too mean.

Herbers gives such a terrific performance in this film. She is playing the insanity of the role with so many different layers. There are times when she is on the verge of breaking down into tears, others where she is in a near-manic state, and moments where she is playing a caring mother – she even manages to start a relationship. It is so much to ask for from an actor or actress to give so many unique moments…and Herbers pulls it off. 

The duo of writers Daan Windhorst and Aart’s direction definitely seemed to gel. Whether it is the set pieces, the dialogue, or a combination of the two – this film is able to squeeze laughs out of many, many moments. The film even does an interesting thing, opening in media res in a way that doesn’t initially feel like that’s what is happening. There are the usual shots of the city that the film is taking place in that slowly morphs into what is obviously a model of the city instead. The shots follow a train as it moves through the fake version of the world, until the table that the diorama is on is suddenly flipped over. It isn’t obvious until that comes back later that it was actually a part of the world that our characters are in; this is just one of many moments where the attention to these details pays off in big ways. 

The Columnist certainly isn’t going to sit well with everyone, but if you don’t mind a little dark satire in your comedy, then you may find yourself drawn in. However, it is possible that I’m speaking kindly about this film for fear of reprisal given the nature of the story…though I feel confident that isn’t the case. Seriously, The Columnist worked for me completely, and I found every aspect of this film to be compelling and entertaining while still being able to say something about the world we are living in; like good satire should. The Columnist earns the Must See rating.

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