SWEAT – Review by Marietta Steinhart (Guest Post)

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The unbearable comfort of your phone’s glow: This modern-day drama from Magnus von Horn is not your typical moralizing punch at Social Media, but rather a nuanced look.

A few years ago I posted a picture of my brothers and me on Instagram. It’s a great picture, really. People would write comments like ”You look so happy!” below – rightfully so. And yet it was a miserable moment in my life.

In a nutshell, this is what Swedish writer-director Magnus von Horn’s Polish-language film Sweat is about: the crater between the lives we live offline and the carefully curated online alter egos we share. The things we want people to see and the things we keep in our hearts.

The young Polish woman (the magnificent Magdalena Koleśnikin her first leading role in a feature) at the heart of von Horn’s sophomore drama is a shamelessly self-promoting fitness influencer and Social Media celebrity. She films herself eating, walking up stairs (it’s healthy!), driving, and promises her fans that they can have nice legs just like her, if only they work hard enough on themselves. She has achieved some fame in Poland. Companies send her tons of free stuff, protein shakes, outfits, and she is happy to feature it all in her little videos.

When we meet Sylwia for the first time, she works out on a stage in a large Warsaw shopping mall, blonde mane, pink leotard, and flawlessly manicured fingernails, shouting inspiring slogans in front of an amped-up crowd. She’s beaming and so are her fans, which are hoping to be just as beautiful as her.

“Your posture is perfect, you could replace me!” she says to a woman. Later, when she is alone in the locker room, you can’t help but feel that, maybe she wants to be replaced. She had a social day. Hundreds of people posted that they love her, hugged her, her latest selfie was probably watched thousands of times, and yet, she can’t help but feel crushingly lonely. She’s got more than half a million followers on Instagram, but no friends.

When Sylwia shares an emotional video in which she speaks openly about the fact that she feels depressed and lonesome, her sponsors don’t like it. Who wants to see their product in such a negative context? On top of that, a solitary admirer (Tomasz Orpinski) feels encouraged to get closer to her, lingering in his car in front of her apartment – with one hand in his pants. It’s sometimes shot like a paranoia thriller, often with a handheld camera, and with a kinetic documentary feel. The lens films Sylwia in her home and on the street as if from the perspective of the stalker, who records himself on video to tell her how lonely and pathetic he feels. He goes way too far, as does Sylwia, who panics, but in a way they need each other. Sweat skillfully lays bare the voyeuristic nature of Social Media and that very same nature’s dependence on people’s narcissism. Continue reading on THE FEMALE GAZE

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).