Review by Emily Maskell @EmMaskell

Directed by

Magnus von Horn


Aleksandra Konieczna Julian Swiezewski Magdalena Kolesnik


Getting social media right on the big screen is a real hit-or-miss.


An outstanding debut lead performance from Magdalena Koleśnik.

In Retrospect.

A sharp examination of influencer culture.

Magnus von Horn’s character study of a Polish fitness influencer is an incisive comment on social media.

Just as Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade was a turning point for social media on the big screen, Sweat captures the nuances of influencer culture unlike any film before. Commentary on the digital social space is predominantly reserved for comedic parody or a cynical analysis of its detrimental effects. This, however, is an intense portrait of three days in the life of a Polish Instagram fitness influencer and a thoughtfully sincere deliberation of the modern celebrity.

We meet Sylwia Zając (Magdalena Koleśnik) in a Warsaw shopping centre, the camera bouncing to keep up with the energetic pace of the workout class she’s conducting. With a beaming white smile, perfectly tamed ponytail, and peppy persona, she is algorithmically perfect.

Though her virality comes when a post of her tearfully detailing that 600,000 Instagram followers doesn’t negate how vehemently lonely she is garners attention. But with a national TV appearance coming up, Sylwia is more concerned with the invasiveness of malicious gossip sites and how terrifyingly close her obsessed stalker is getting.

Adding to his growing filmography of timely socially reactive films, Sweat is writer/director Magnus von Horn’s character study of a woman crafting her own personal profile. He is quick to break through the glossy pink exterior of Sylwia’s social media-filtered life, however, more concerned with her time in-between Instagram Stories than Sylwia’s posts themselves.

In exploring Sylwia’s offline life, her perfect image begins to fracture. Interactions with fitness partner Klaudiusz (Julian Świeżewski) and her mother (Aleksandra Konieczna) play out with a strikingly tragic hollowness. Such is exemplified in a darkly funny sequence where her mother’s birthday meal somehow becomes a showcase for Sylwia’s new workout DVD.

In its most pensive scenes, however, Sweat lingers with Sylwia alone in the darkness of her flat where screen glare illuminates her face like an artificial spotlight. Von Horn’s camera, like Sylwia’s phone, rarely leaves her side. This intimacy is entirely indebted to Koleśnik’s quietly powerful, physically intuitive performance. And not only with regards to her fitness career: when Sylwia closes the app her smile fades and her body relaxes, a mark of the performativity that separates her digital and real self.

Sweat lurches into an unexpectedly violent and dramatic final act, soothed by editor Agnieszka Glinska’s sparse cuts and longer sequences which allow Koleśnik to drive home her tour de force lead turn. It is the contradiction of making an unhurried, cinematic film centred on the chaotic experience of existing in a digital world that makes von Horn’s film a distinctly compelling watch.

Published 20 Jun 2021

Tags: Magdalena Koleśnik Magnus von Horn


Getting social media right on the big screen is a real hit-or-miss.


An outstanding debut lead performance from Magdalena Koleśnik.

In Retrospect.

A sharp examination of influencer culture.

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