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Friday, October 30, 2020


Von Horn’s film is a modern-day statement on how social media camouflages or conceals the real person. (Review by Patrick Compton)

Sweat will feature on the programme of the European Film Festival which runs from November 12 to 22, 2020

Sylwia Zajac (a remarkable Magdalena Kolesnik) is a beloved Polish celebrity fitness trainer with 600,000 followers on Instagram. You’d think she’d be a happy, shiny person. You would be wrong.

The opening sequence of writer-director Magnus von Horn’s film shows that, at least in her working life, the high-energy Sylwia is a flaming comet as she encourages her adoring fitness clientele to joyfully work out “with the body they have and not the body they want”.

It soon becomes clear, however, that despite the gleaming surface of her life, Sylwia’s only true friend is her Jack Russell, Jackson, who lives with her in her well-appointed apartment. Although the trainer is a social media addict, forever posting video messages to her fans, her private life is a chilly vacuum. She doesn’t have a boyfriend, though she claims she wants one, and seems to have little idea of personal intimacy.

In stark contrast then, to her Instagram presence, and her well-honed athletic body, the real Sylwia is a brittle, lonely person.

Von Horn’s film is a modern-day statement on how social media camouflages or conceals the real person. We see Sylwia having an awkward meeting with an anguished old school friend and she can’t even connect with her mother who is underwhelmed by her effusive protestations of love and a series of lavish presents at what turns out to be an embarrassingly discordant birthday party.

Things come to a head when Sylwia encounters a stalker near her apartment who then sends her an apologetic video message, sticky with regret and self-hatred. This leads to personal revelations for Sylwia, further pain for the stalker and finally a sobering climax during a TV interview.

Although Sylwia finally admits certain truths about herself, the movie ends ambivalently: we never really know whether the emotionally closed-off celebrity trainer will ever succeed in her private life to the degree that she so obviously does in the gym or on social media.

Sweat is in Polish with English subtitles. - Patrick Compton

Sweat can be seen from November 12 to 22, 2020, on the European Film Festival’s website. Click on the advert to the right of this article or visit