Sweat – a great character study of a social media star

They are stars of online culture, their followers admire them and buy things according to their recommendations in hope of becoming more like them, their critics attack them as lazy people and snake oil salesmen. Constant exposure in the world of social media is the foundation of life for influencers, but also the reason why they can become easy targets for harassment. Magnus von Horn, a Swedish director living in Poland, deals with that subject and the emotional and psychological consequences of star exposure on social media in his film Sweat, which won the best film and art direction awards at the recent Chicago International Film Festival.

The film follows three days in the life of a fitness influencer Sylwia (the excellent Magdalena Kolesnik), offering us an exciting look behind the scenes of this fascinating industry. Energetic and dedicated to her work, Sylwia’s public persona is bursting with positivity. She is her own creation. But in the confines of her own home, her bubbly personality becomes cold and withdrawn and reveals an empty void underneath a carefully built glittering façade. Even though she’s surrounded by loyal employees and hundreds of thousands of fans, Sylwia’s desire is to experience true closeness. When she reveals her feelings of loneliness with the fans, she gets more than she expected.

The film was selected for Cannes 2020 and was lauded by critics as a bright and shiny character-driven drama that begins as another send-up of social media madness, but at some point turns a dark, unexpected corner. (Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter). The film is also praised as one of the first films on that subject while avoiding the cliché of portraying influencers as shallow people (Seventh Row), and as a refreshing film that, instead of engaging in easy social media bashing, just coolly observes the world of influencers, making it seem like what it is: a full-time job (Martha Balaga, Cineuropa).

Magnus von Horn (1983) graduated from the Polish National Film School in Lodz, where he is a professor of film directing. His short film Echo (ZFF 2009) premiered at Sundance, and his feature debut, The Here After (2015) was shown during the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes.

You can see the trailer here, and don’t forget to see Sweat in the main program of 18th ZFF.