The Columnist aka De Kuthoer (2019)

Quick Synopsis: Femke Boot (played by Katja Herbers) is an author who is fed up with the constant abuse she gets online, so decides to fight back with murder in a slick social satire.

I was looking forward to this since I first saw the trailer. I showed someone it and they said “Oh that looks right up your street”. And it is, it’s funny, has something to say, has a good look, and looks violently fun. The closest to this I’ve seen is probably I Blame Society. But that wasn’t as focused as this is. This has a definitive villain, but also doesn’t. The problem the main character is dealing with isn’t a single person, it’s a societal imbalance. When that’s handled badly it can ruin a film as it makes the characters journey seem hopeless as if they can’t win, what’s the point of trying? But when done well it will annoy you and you’ll love seeing the character fight back. This is in the second category.

It’s a film that’s deeply uncomfortable to watch, in a good way. The handy thing about this type of plot is you don’t need a big breaking point. You don’t need a “oh, this is what set her off”. There’s no “this is the one incident which caused her to be angry”, it’s just “she’s a woman that has expressed opinions about sexism on the internet”, and everybody will automatically understand her rage and annoyance.

The film would fall apart without the performers though. If you don’t buy what the performers are selling, it won’t work. I know nobody in this film, so I went in with a blank slate in terms of expectations, and I love so many of them. Claire Porro plays Femke’s daughter, and she injects a mischievous energy to her performance, making you aware that even when she’s sitting there looking beaten, she has a plan. She’d make a great villain in a Bond-like movie. Tremendous talent for someone so young. She injects a level of fire to a film that’s already burning, simply fantastic to watch.

While Porro is good, it’s definitely a showcase for Herbers. She gives a great performance. It’s weird to judge performances in foreign languages as it’s based almost entirely on physical performance, you’re not aware of word emphasis etc which could be ruining it. So for all I know, she did terribly and her line delivery was terrible. But for me, judging by what I saw, she was great. It’s a difficult role to do as she has to be likeable, but also a serial killer. So she has to have that weird mix of danger and sweetness. It’s a testament to both her performance, and to the writing, that it works as well as it does.

Now onto the writing, I kind of assumed this was written by a woman, or at the very least directed by one. Not the case, written and directed by men. I kind of like that as it shows that it’s not just women who are disgusted by this behaviour, other men are too. It could be argued that they’re taking away women’s voices, but alternatively it could also be argued that they’re using their position of privilege to amplify issues which others face. If they stay silent, nothing changes for them, they can go on and live their lives. They put themselves in the firing line by calling out their peers, and doing it in such a visceral and clever way that it’s hard to ignore.

Trust me, this film is bloody, and this film is violent. But it’s also very very funny. Not just in the actions but the dialogue too. There’s a sense of playfulness to it that is artfully done enough that it never takes you away from the violence you’re seeing. And it’s very violent, there’s a fantastic montage of her killing misogynistic assholes and I’m all for that kind of violence in cinema.

I guess it’s time to talk about the misogyny that drives this film. It’s a story that so many people will be familiar with. A woman posts an article online saying something like “hey, maybe blackface isn’t a good idea and we should really stop it, and just saying It’s Tradition isn’t good enough”, and gets a lot of hate mail, most of which is misogynistic in nature (“This woman should be impaled cunt first”) . Lots of death threats, lots of people calling her an ugly cunt etc. It’s an ugly part of the film, but it’s an honest part of the film. Whether we like it or not, that is what the internet experience is for a lot of women, and it’s, well it’s not “nice” to see a film say this, but it is good to see a spotlight shone upon it.

Weird thing about this film is something that was completely accidental. Now, there was an incident last week where a twatface dickhead shot people because he wasn’t getting laid enough (that’s not me being glib, that’s pretty much what he said). And here’s a picture of him, and a picture of one of the guys in the film who sent the aforementioned “impaled cunt first” message.

There’s…..there’s definitely a similarity there isn’t there? Very creepy, and the fact it reminded me of such a horrible event does slightly taint it somewhat. But that also kind of shows the power of the film and how accurate the portrayal of the culture is. Good satire reacts, great satire predicts.

So, the downside of the film? The ending, it’s in the trailer so you know it’s coming. Although I suppose with this it’s not so much the destination as it is the journey, and it’s one hell of a journey. There also will be some people who don’t think the ending is complete, but I loved it. It just required you to step away from the film and realise the next steps for every character, I love when that happens as it makes the characters seem like real people.

One final thing: De Kuthoer does not translate to “The Columnist”, it actually means “Cunt whore”. So don’t compliment Dutch writers by calling them Kuthoers. That’s a mistake you only make once.

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