By Samuel Vickers, Third Year, German & Russian
Director of Netflix’s hit true-crime documentary Don’t F**ck With Cats (2019), Felicity Morris, has returned with another sensational documentary, The Tinder Swindler (2022).
Sitting at number 1 of the UK’s Top 10 Trending Netflix shows, The Tinder Swindler tells the real-life story of Simon Leviev’s deception and exploitation of numerous women around the world through the popular dating app Tinder. Centring around three of Leviev’s victims, the film is comprised of interviews, archive footage and reconstructions to document the rise and fall of his global con.
Posing as the son of a famous Israeli businessman and investor, Lev Leviev, Simon Leviev (real name Shimon Hayut) brands himself as the ‘prince of diamonds’ who lives an extravagant, multi-millionaire life. He travels the world in his private jet and seduces women across Europe and Asia with his playboy lifestyle.
Using Tinder to advertise his wealth, Leviev follows up this ‘bait’ with exciting and promising dates, which his victims really fall for. However, it is not long before Leviev begins to exploit these innocent women, and the extent of his deceit becomes clear as he uses their trust and money to perpetuate this scam across the world.
Leviev's con is a highly complex deception, but Netflix paces the story well, drip-feeding us information in the same sequence as the victims received it. Running at 114 minutes, The Tinder Swindler is quite long but this is warranted by the length and complexity of the story- there are very few moments that drag.
An effective way the film keeps its viewers engaged is through the repetition of reconstructions; there are several dramatic scenes where actors play out the events that an interviewee is narrating in a voice-over. This is an unorthodox method for documentary filmmaking, but in The Tinder Swindler, it really works.
This engaging method is complemented by an extensive archive of real footage filmed on the victims’ phones and screenshots of social media exchanges between the women and Leviev. The documentary also uses excerpts from other films, cruelly contrasting Leviev’s romantic fraud with speeches and scenes about true love.
The Tinder Swindler switches between the victims’ accounts seamlessly and without signposting. As viewers, we feel great sympathy for Leviev’s victims and are aligned with them in the unravelment of the narrative: we experience the same intrigue, manipulation, doubt and betrayal that the victims do, though as viewers, the stakes for us are not as high.
One of the most tragic aspects of these scams is that they are transparently fishy, and this is where the motivation behind using the app Tinder becomes clear: Leviev banks on the faith and trust demanded by romantic partners to pressure his victims into compliance with cons that anyone else would send straight to spam. These cons fund the lifestyle that Leviev has always wanted and this offers a kind of bond between him and his victims. He has beguiled them with his own dream, as they too are seduced by the magic of luxury: they want to believe him.
Overall, various threads of the plot are tied up at the end of the film, but a couple of them are unfortunately forgotten about, leaving us with no satisfying or convincing conclusions.
Since its premiere last week, it has been reported that Leviev refused to participate in the film and has even threatened Netflix with a lawsuit for its depiction of him.
The Tinder Swindler is an engrossing and well-crafted, for the most part, documentary, so if you’re a fan of true crime then this is definitely the film for you.
Featured Image: IMDB
Have you experienced any horror Tinder dates?