Arts Festival

Italicising the ‘super’ in ‘superficial’

WHO is Sylwia? What is she? A still from the film Sweat, featuring Magdalena Kolesnik. Photograph courtesy imdb.

OUR CONTEMPORARY WORLD, replete with elements such as social media queens, influencers and the like is one fraught with the dangers of too much shallowness in a context tainted with commercialism and driven by arbitrary ‘likes’ and ‘hits’. It’s a reality which feeds a pathology that spells terror on some levels, particularly if you think about the nuanced worlds where skills and talent were currency rather than superficial popularity. This is the kind of issues that Magnus von Horn’s film Sweat attempts to confront. It features on this year’s European Film Festival in South Africa. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the entire festival is available online and most of it without cost until 22 November.

And it is here where you get to meet Sylwia (Magdalena Kolesnik). She’s a work out guru with a huge following of women who are keen to be her, with her taut body, tight dietary regime, environmental principles and all the right moves. Inside, however, she’s an unhappy and cruel young thing, so consumed with her own sense of self that she’s forgotten where the borders of public and private are drawn and spills all kinds of cringeworthy things about herself into the public domain.

While the premises of the tale have potential, they are not sufficiently developed to either martyr the idea of Sylwia and thus make a point about the overwhelming superficiality of her context, or allow the character to redeem herself in some way. With a very uncomfortable moment involving sex and violence in the work’s denouement, Sylwia emerges as an even less developed character than you originally may have imagined.

In a sense, the hero of this strange and unfortunate piece is her mother, Basia (Aleksandra Konieczna), who is clearly quite disappointed in the vain young entity she has produced. And the best part of the film is unequivocally Sylwia’s Jack Russell, Jackson, who is the only unexpurgated character with a bit of savvy in this whole mishmash of unworthy celebrities that features a script peppered so heavily with the word ‘super’ that you almost don’t need the English subtitles to get the drift.

Easily the weakest piece on this year’s European Film Festival SA, Sweat misses the mark in almost every possible context, and you emerge none the wiser, having used up 95 minutes that you will never get back.

Sweat is directed and written by Magnus von Horn. Produced by Marius Wlodarski, it is performed by Sarah Banasiak, Karolina Bialek, Michalina Bienkowska, Dominika Biernat, Adrian Budakow, Katarzyna Cynke, Krzysztof Czarnota, Bogna Defecinska, Katarzyna Dziurska, Wiktoria Filus, Edgar Griszczuk, Anna Kalczynska, Magdalena Kolesnik, Aleksandra Konieczna, Karolina Krawczynska, Mateusz Król, Diana Krupa, Magdalena Kuta, Natalia Maciejczyk, Antoni W Mischal, Katazyna Nasilowska, Tadeusz Rogucki, Tomasz Sobierajski, Andrzej Soltysik, Lech Lotocki, Tomasz Orpinski, Bartosz Sak, Julian Swiezewski, Marek Zajaczkowski, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Inga Zasowska and Dorota Zieciowska. It features creative input by Piotr Kurek (music), Michael Dymek (cinematography), Agnieszka Glinska (editing), Dawid Bodzak and Milosz Karbownik (casting), Jagna Dobesz (production design) and Malgorzata Fudala (costumes). In Polish with English subtitles, it is part of the 7th European Film Festival South Africa, screening online and without cost until 22 November 2020.

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