Film Maudit 2.0: The Columnist

A columnist goes on a killing spree after being fed up by the hate comments on social media.  

Film Maudit 2.0 is a virtual festival presented by Highways. The festival started on January 12, 2021, and will continue till January 24, 2021. It is free, so make sure to check it out. I started with the black comedy The Columnist

Written by Daan Windhorst and directed by Ivo van Aart, The Columnist follows a writer/columnist named Femke Boot (Katja Herbers). We are introduced to her in a talk show where she debates on negativity prevailing on social media. Her motto: Why not respect people who have contradicting views? Not everyone has to agree with your beliefs. We are humans, and we all deserve to think differently. It's a pretty noble thought if you ask me. Most importantly, this introduction leads us to believe that Femke has a civilized mind. She does not aim to reach the moon. She wants to remove toxicity from platforms like Twitter and Facebook, which perhaps is way more difficult than pursuing the moon. 

Similar to any other celebrity on social media, Femke receives her daily dose of hate comments. They range from the F-word to the B-word. What's unhealthy about Femke is that she is obsessed with these comments. This leads to writer's block. Her publisher thinks the writer's block is hogwash. Instead, given Femke's controversial status, she wants to create a "stir." 

But Femke's creative juice is on hold. She finds herself shifting from blank pages to Twitter. The odious mentions consume her brain, decapitating the writing process. One of the cyberbullies happens to be the neighbor. When Femke chats with him, her expressions say, "Look at me. I am the woman you trash about on the Internet. Try the same now when we are face to face." Obviously, the man appears polite in front of her but goes on with his trolling on the Internet. Our columnist slowly crosses the limit of toleration. First, she lashes out by breaking the neighbor's wall. That doesn't prove to be enough. The Twitter notifications still pile up with hate from the same person. One day, she spots him on the roof. She has had enough. Stealthily she reaches behind and pushes him to his death. This whole scene is devoid of dramatic build-ups. The murder just...happens. The normality in the execution can be seen as a sign of it becoming a routine. Feeling euphoric, Femke suddenly finds herself cured of writer's block and begins to type. 

The Columnist takes a few shots to establish the menacing mindset. Closeups of a needle and a sauce are used to initiate the slashing process. These small set-ups lead to that wall-breaking incident before finally releasing the killer inside her. Murder starts ushering peace in her life. The act of slaughtering one evil at a time may very well appear as a social service in her eyes. This, coupled with the ignition in the writing process, makes Femke an addict. Surprisingly, the trolls in The Columnist bash with their original accounts, making it easier for the mean tweets to transform into a hit list. The pen is mightier than the sword, but Femke chooses the sword to mighty the pen. 

Something identical is shown in the crime series Hasmukh, where a comedian, played by Vir Das, murders corrupt people to perform on stage. Das' character, though, targeted anyone with a wicked trait. Femke marks those who come to her.   

The stand against the hostile environment of social media remains the same. She teaches and supports her daughter, Anna (Claire Porro), in her free speech campaign. When Anna's school headmaster objects against a cuss word, he is addressed as a prick. It's unfair of Femke to use this word considering her beliefs of voicing an opinion without restrictions. The headmaster's remarks also come under the freedom of speech. Then why label him as a prick? He objects to using the F-word in the magazine. So if Femke can support her daughter for putting in this word under the guise of "freedom of expression," she is also wrong in opposing the bullies for swearing online. The Columnist is aware of Femke's double standards. She writes this in a speech for Anna, "I am allowed to say everything. I am allowed to call the king a prick. The government corrupt, we're allowed to call Neelie Kroes a whore and the Headmaster of my daughter's high school an overpaid, balding piece of shit." The delivery of this speech is juxtaposed with a scene showing Femke on one of her killings. 

The Columnist employs Femke as a stand-in for the hypocrites, which I believe every human being is. It is interesting that she is a columnist. A writer polishes his blemishes and straightens out imperfections before publishing his work to the world. What we see is the polished product. The errors are "hidden" from the public. Likewise, we create a facade to achieve perfection. Under our masks, we despise those who reveal their flaws when most of the time, we may practice those flaws within the safe confines. I recently found out that one of my friends who used to chaff others for liking a romantic film has a collection of them stored away on his hard disk. I hope people start introspecting on their actions before preaching to others. Cutting off disagreeing heads will only push away your innocence.         

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