Sweat (2020)

An up close and personal look at the demanding and complex life of social media celebrities - their obsession with screen and their need for personal well being.

9/14/20234 min read

Magdalena Kolesnik in Polish film 'Sweat'
Magdalena Kolesnik in Polish film 'Sweat'

Polish, 105 minutes, 2020

Director: Magnus von Horn

Cast: Magdalena Kolesnik, Julian Swiezewski, Aleksandra Konieczna, Zbigniew Zamachowski

Awards: Winner, Best Feature (Gold Hugo) and Best Art Direction, Chicago International Film Festival, 2020; Winner, Best Actress, International Competition, Macao International Film Festival, 2020; Winner Best Director, Best Actress, Best Cinematography and Best Editing and Nominee Best Film, Polish Film Festival, 2020

Sylwia Zajac (Magdalena Kolesnik) is a fitness motivator who has around 600,000 followers on Instagram and she holds regular workout sessions for her followers or ’loves’ as she calls them. She genuinely loves them and her fans and followers are her world. Being a social media celebrity she keeps posting her almost every routine task on internet, meaning she is 'live' almost always. A video posted by her in which, she confesses to be alone and without a boyfriend, goes viral. She is honest and genuinely pained – and shares that with her followers as she shares everything. One of her sponsors does not see that in positive light. To buttress her image, her agent fixes morning session with a TV channel.

Sylwia’s mother’s birthday is being celebrated and Sylwia gets gifts and bouquet for her. She gifts a large LED plasma to her. Her mother (Aleksandra Konieczna) lives with her partner and they invite close relatives for lunch. At party everybody talks about Sylwia’s popularity and her being latest internet sensation. Sylwia reveals here that, it is not all good and glam being an internet celebrity and tells that she had spotted a stalker who sat in his car in front of her apartment and when she approached him and questioned him about why he was staring at her, he started jerking off. Later that night he had sent a video message apologising about his behaviour and telling how he was alone. Slywia’s mother asks her why she approached him at all since there are many crazy people out there. A small argument ensues but is resolved amicably by her uncle. Next day she is supposed to perform live but she can’t sleep. She dresses up and goes to a night club where her fitness partner Klaudiusz (Julian Swiezewski) is having a night out. She enjoys there a bit and asks him to come home with her. At home she tells him about the stalker who is there in the car at that hour of night. Klaudiusz goes down thrashes him. Sylwia sees that from her apartment and when he comes back asks him politely to go home. After he leaves, she goes down and looks at her stalker who is in bad shape. She takes him to hospital and returns back.

Next morning she is up early and ready for her TV session. Her session comprises of her interview followed by morning workout. During the interview she is asked by the host about her viral post where she had cried about being alone and the need for such post. Sylwia gets emotional and honestly replies that she shares her life with her fans and followers and she doesn’t see anything wrong in that. They then cut to her workout.

Magdalena Kolesnik is superb and does complete justice to her role. The film’s first sequence where she performs live with her fans in a mall is done so well that it sets the tone and energy of the entire film and in one go tells us about life of social circuit celebrities. Magdalena has performed that sequence with such energy and conviction that it is hard to believe that she was not on Instagram before this film and she learned the social media site just for the film. Also her training and background as a theatre actor might have made her prepare very seriously because she is completely convincing as a fitness motivator who takes fitness, fans, followers and internet all very seriously. So, even if she cries in the studio at one moment, next moment she is ready for morning workout because ’job demands so’. Here I must credit director Magnus von Horn who has handled the film very skilfully and sensitively, portraying pros and cons associated with social media celebrities. He has shown their energy, their obsession with being on screen all the time and also their need for privacy and belonging. Then, ending with a positive note that all must be taken in stride and one should move on. A must watch for all serious cinema lovers.

About the director, Magnus von Horn

Born in December, 1983 in Gothenburg, Sweden, Magnus is a Swedish Film director and screenwriter. He graduated from Polish National Film, Television and School, Lodz in 2013. His first film was a short documentary about a young Polish criminal. The documentary had roots in his experience as on his first visit he was mugged and robbed in Poland.

He made his first short film, ‘Mleczaki’ in 2007 and then followed it with another short titled ‘Echo’ in 2008. His third Short film ‘Without Snow’ won him Guldbagge Award (Swedish Film Awards) for best Short film in 2011.

He made his first full length feature, ‘The Here After’ in 2015 which depicts the life of a teenager who returns to his rural home after serving time in prison but the society doesn’t accept him. The film was premiered in the ‘Director’s Fortnight’ section of Cannes Film festival, 2015. Present film, ‘Sweat’ is his second film. This film too was supposed to have its world premiere at Cannes Film Festival, 2020 but the festival was cancelled due to Covid Pandemic.