It cannot be said that the great quality of this ‘The Columnist’, a Dutch film that has just been released on Prime Video, is its subtlety: its very starting point is a grotesque exaggeration of our behavior and, above all, our reactions to what we see on social networks. But although he opts for a maddened flight forward that takes his argument to considerable heights of delirium, he also has between the lines a sharp reflection on what Twitter and Facebook have done with our personalities.
The protagonist of ‘La columnista’ is exactly that: a controversial journalist (Katja Herbers, whom we have been able to see as the protagonist of the fantastic ‘Evil’) who receives daily harassment on social networks from hundreds of anonymous readers. Victim of a terrible creative blockage that prevents her from getting on with a new book, she discovers that the only way to release all the anger and resentment that paralyzes her is by executing her haters one by one.
Apparently, ‘La columnista’ is going to run through the terrain of criticism of the abuse that women receive on social networks, and there is something like that. Many of the insults that the protagonist receives would not exist if she were not a columnist, and the film also introduces some phenomena such as the mansplaining. However, ‘La columnista’ goes further: here everyone receives their correction.
Although the viewer may sympathize with the expeditious methods that the columnist uses to deal with her virtual enemies, we soon discover that the punishment she sets in motion is frankly disproportionate, no matter how much we have all fantasized about going home to the jerk who insults us on Twitter mechanical saw at the ready. ‘The columnist’ does not justify stalkers or victims, but she does portray behaviors that are absolutely out of her depth due to the viscerality to which social networks push us.
To the world is not good
What the film portrays perfectly is how social networks turn us into madmen locked up in glass urns that They don’t realize that Twitter, Facebook and the comments section of websites are only microcosms. without much relation to the real world. A couple of times the protagonist is recommended not to pay so much attention to criticism on the internet that they defame her with very serious accusations, but she is too stubborn in her mission to clean her timeline.
With an elegant production and full of images that reinforce how absorbing and addictive the digital world can be, director Ivo van Aart portrays both a case of unfair harassment and one of obsession beyond himself. And he has no sympathy for her protagonist either, whom he portrays as a professional somewhat self-absorbed with her own image, and envious of the literary successes of professional provocateurs.
The one who does receive a devastating criticism is the editor who publishes the protagonist, who even receives with satisfaction all the bad press that monopolizes her employee’s columns, since she prefers to be spoken of badly than not, regardless of what that it can suppose for its stability. She even proposes using the defamatory tweets as a promotion for the book. Here It is clear who is the bad guy in the story: who profits from the hatred of others without getting their hands dirty.
‘La columnista’ is not a round movie, because there comes a time when the mental drift of its protagonist is so exaggerated that the satire loses some bite. But that does not stop it from being full of very poisonous ideas, and that are reflected in a secondary plot starring the journalist’s daughter, which leaves open a debate in which, in these times, we have not yet finished putting agreement: freedom of expression comes first, whoever falls. Do not?