The Tinder Swindler Review: This brilliant documentary rings astonishingly real
Backed by an intriguing true-crime subject and some fascinating creative choices, this new Netflix documentary bears the stamp of a winner
Cinematic nature is the best attribute of The Tinder Swindler. The documentary doesn’t just handle a dramatic subject; the technique is decidedly cinematic as well. A perfect three-act structure is in place too. When one of the primary subjects of the documentary narrates her encounter with the eponymous swindler, the rendezvous and her experience are illustrated with shots from The Yellow Rolls Royce. Likewise, when she describes her first kiss with the man, we are shown Audrey Hepburn kissing Cary Grant in Charade (1963). In a similar vein, when a journalist begins discussing the titular criminal’s past, the shot quickly cuts to the engine fan of an aircraft and it’s almost impossible not to notice that the visual resembles the classic spiral transition to indicate the narrative going back in time. Even Instagram photos are used brilliantly in a true ‘major reveal’ fashion at a crucial point. The film is also shot in a ‘cinematic’ 2.39:1 aspect ratio, as opposed to the full-screen ratio documentaries tend to opt for.
The Tinder Swindler can serve as a companion piece to Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer, which retraced the abhorrent crimes of the notorious serial killer through the intimate perspective of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Kendall. This new Netflix documentary also serves as a mouthpiece for the survivors, Cecilie Fjellhoy, Pernilla Sjöholm, and Ayleen Charlotte. The criminal here is Simon Leviev, the prince of a billion-dollar diamond empire, who lives a king-size life armed with luxury hotels, fancy cars, designer clothes, private jets… The film begins with Cecilie’s account of her rendezvous with Simon through Tinder. She is, naturally, surprised by the affluent lifestyle, but takes a quick liking of his person. If the title weren’t a give-away, we may not even realise it. The women realise this late, after they get relieved of their wealth.
A subject describes it as an “emotional crime” and all three kinds of repercussions—litigious, financial, and psychological—are captured beautifully. When these conflicts merge towards the end, the result is a profoundly intimate scene where Pernilla confronts Simon over the phone. This video, shot by a journalist for documentation purposes, breaks the cinematic nature abruptly and reminds you of the real-life effects these crimes had on the survivors. There is also an attempt to make the third act appear like a revenge tale to offer us some closure and its victims, a catharsis.
In all, The Tinder Swindler has terrific subject matter, and its creative choices beautifully complement its content, making it one of the best true-crime titles to come out in recent times.