Sweat (2020) CURZON

June 20th, 2021
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Magnus von Horn | Poland, Sweden | Drama 105′

Don’t judge a book by its cover is the message in this stylish Warsaw-set psychodrama from Swedish born, Polish trained director Magnus von Horn. And although the cult of celebrity has been tackled before, this fresh take on fitness, motivation and loneliness in the digital age of social-media driven obsession feels real, Magda Kolesnik making for a feisty feline fanatic as the film’s heroine. 

In today’s Warsaw she is Sylwia Zajac a physical trainer and healthy living guru with an instagram following as long as her beautifully sculpted legs. Shrewd, highly disciplined and committed to her fans, Sylwia is able to switch on a megawatt smile one moment turning a sympathetic ear to her trainees the next. We see her in face to face sessions encouraging and even hugging her clients who are ordinary women desperate to stay in shape and maintain their bodies in peak condition for those daily selfies. 

But what starts as a smalltime success story about a fitness guru and her avid followers soon develops into something more unsettling. Sweat serves as a showcase for what can happen to a beautiful woman, or any woman, in the public eye. And here von Horn weaves another strand into his topical storyline: that of male degeneracy – one character is a stalker, the other a brutal thug, and both are seen through the eyes of a straightforward professional woman who enjoys her career and celebrity status – perhaps a little bit too much – but would also like to find love and  intimacy in these days of social alienation and distancing.

Van Horn takes the case of Bjork’s stalker, Ricardo Lopez, as the inspiration for Sylwia’s prowler, who first appears as a ‘peeping tom’ watching her from the privacy of his car parked right near her swanky apartment block. It soon turns out this is Rysiek (Tomasz Orpiński) and although Sylwia asks him to move on, he refuses. Meanwhile Sylwia asks her a male friend Klaudiusz (Julian Swiezewski) to reason with Rysiek. But his intervention just leads to more complications. And not only that, he expects some kind of reward in return for helping her – and we’re not talking about money. The final scenes show Magda at her most human and vulnerable in this stinging snapshot of modern times with its sinister overtones that also explores narcissism, hero worship and body perfectionism. MT



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