Sweat is Swedish director Magnus von Horn’s take on influencer culture. The three-day character study of a fictional workout trainer with 600,000 followers plays with themes of artificiality and parasocial relationships that affect many real influencers. More than just the personal aspects, Sweat looks into the potential extreme repercussions of having a personality so public facing.
Sylwia (Magdalena Kolesnik) is a fitness guru and influencer who hosts packed workout sessions, sells workout tapes, and advertises the products of her many sponsors. After giving a recorded workout in a mall one day, she meets with her manager who relays some concerns one of her sponsors had with her uncharacteristically personal post the night prior that had since gone viral. She reminds him that she has always had carte blanche with her social media accounts and he agrees. This singular post, however, portends the increased breaking of character caused by the events in the rest of the film.
Von Horn makes some risky direction decisions that pay off well in Sweat. Sylwia’s constant need to film herself with a phone no more than an arm’s reach away is paralleled in the cinematography with uncomfortably tight closeups. These shots are held extreme enough that, as Sylwia moves, the camera loses focus on her reflecting the loss of self that she experiences through her constant vlogging. Small decisions like this set the groundwork for a film exploring how cracks can form under the constant need to wear a mask. While these moments hint at genius, they are regrettably lost in the screenplay’s implementation of a somewhat standard stalker plot which moves Sylwia’s character in a direction antithetical to the smaller decisions.
There is a great film somewhere in Sweat. The moments where Sylwia’s perfect exterior cracks from the day-to-day grind of her chosen profession are personal and revelatory. These combined with the unique cinematography give a glimpse into what the film could have been. Unfortunately, the more narratively conventional plot points result in a safer though less interesting film.