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GENTLE (2022, MAĐ) – 7/10


I guess gentle is the last word that comes to mind when we think of bodybuilding, of those men and women who are cut from a rock. To people who often push their body and mind to the limit in order to reach something they may consider perfection, although for some, including me, such a thing is not perfect, but creepy, disturbing and grotesque. Just looking at the main protagonist of the film premiered at the Sundance festival, the Hungarian bodybuilder Edina, who, if she had slightly shorter hair, is already grotesque.

She looks grotesque, which is further accentuated because she is reduced to those blacks that bodybuilders put on at competitions in order to make every muscle more visible. However, by the end of the film, which was shot together by the painter Anna Nemes and the slightly more experienced filmmaker Laszlo Csuja, we will understand that Edina’s truly gentle soul is imprisoned in an anything but tender body filled with steroids, similar poisons and refined to the point where she can no longer bear it. . Edina was embodied by a naturist, that is, a real Hungarian champion in bodybuilding, Eszter Csonka, who was also one of the protagonists of the previous film Nemes, a documentary about female bodybuilders “Beauty of the Beast”.

This Hungarian painter-filmmaker is clearly fascinated by this bodybuilding subculture, and from beginning to end, gentle stylized poetics and naturalism practically in a documentary style are contrasted here, and often not only Edina’s tortured body is in the foreground, but also her face, which does not hide its sadness , pain, dissatisfaction. Until the very end, it remains unclear whether the desire to become the world champion in bodybuilding is Edina’s at all, or whether her trainer and partner Adam (Györgi Turos), a former world champion in the same discipline, a passive-aggressive guy who is also clearly a long-term consumer, is forcing her to do so. anabolic steroids clouded the brain.

He pushes Edina to the limits, not only in training and in the use of all those supplements, but also on crazy diets. Although someone like Edina can’t look feminine and graceful, so I don’t know what to do, Adam tells her that when doing bikini poses, she looks like a robot with a broken chip. The second and much bigger problem is that they don’t have money for training, extras and going to the world championship themselves, and this will force Edina to engage in an escort agency. And not as a classic prostitute, but as an escort lady for non-sexual encounters with various curious, obviously sick guys who pay handsomely.

And after that bodybuilding half-world, we go to a more bizarre half-world, perhaps not so much perversions, as fetishism when Edina starts getting those grotesque engagements. However, during one such encounter with a guy whose fetish is playing hide and seek in the forest, Edina seems to get the chance to experience tenderness and a completely different kind of closeness. At the same time, going to the championship is getting closer, the training sessions and everything that goes along with them are becoming more and more difficult and dangerous, and the question is whether her body can even tolerate it any longer. This Hungarian duo made an extremely interesting, unusual and conflicting film in which the protagonist seems to come to know who she really is and what she wants in life.