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Festivals Film Reviews Raindance Film Festival 2024

Review: Body Odyssey. Into the world of bodybuilding

  • Release year: 2023
  • Director: Grazia Tricarico.
  • Producers: Riccardo Di Pasquale, Federico Giacinti, Olga Lamontanara, Salvatore Lizzio, Donatello Della Pepa and Antonella Volpe.
  • Screenplay by: Marco Morana, Giulio Rizzo and Grazia Tricarico.
  • Cinematography by: Corrado Serri.
  • Music by: Lorenzo Tomio.

Synopsis: a female bodybuilder’s descent into madness.

Shotgun Commentary: if you like Cronenberg and Lars von Trier, this was made for you.

Kurt (Julian Sands) and Mona (Jacqueline Fuchs). Source: Body Odyssey (Grazia Tricarico, 2023). Courtesy of: Raindance Film Festival.

Review

Body Odyssey showcases yet another example of how society and our surroundings beat us into obsessing with having the perfect body. Only this time it is not about frail women feeling fat, but quite the opposite. The world of female bodybuilders is beginning to gain protagonist in the media. Love Lies Bleeding (2024) introduced it this year to a mainstream audience, and Body Odyssey has followed its wake with its own original narrative.

What is strong, anyways?

Mona (Jacqueline Fuchs), a female bodybuilder in her forties, is the protagonist of this story. Her slip into insanity is the main subject of the feature. Yet, from the looks of the spaces she inhabits, one could assume that this fall began way before we joined in on the action.

At the beginning, Mona seems very much in control. She is a strong woman physically and mentally. She calls the shots and refuses to do anything she doesn’t want to. However, we later on discover that what she means by “listening to her body”, is listening in a very literal way.

Her trainer bullies and manipulates her into feeling horrible about herself every time she doesn’t do as he wants. With this strategy, he takes away her self-determination but, worst of all, he creates a monstrous voice in her head that bullies her every time she’s not pushing herself further.

This main plot line taps into Berger’s theory about women’s sense of self being supplanted by a sense of being appreciated by another (Ways of Seeing, 1972). A phenomenon that takes place when women are subjected so much to the male gaze, that they develop their own. A male or masculinised voice that dictates their behaviour. Mona goes through that same process, only she thinks that her inner voice is her body, even when it tells her to do things against her wellbeing. She is treated like cattle by everyone, measured and touched but anyone who sees her without bothering to ask for consent. She has become the ultimate object for the male gaze, so her journey into madness is quite understandable.

Just… no

Regrettably, there are moments that make no sense at all. When did she become obsessed with Nic? A boy whose name the audience doesn’t even remember until she’s already in his house unannounced. All of a sudden, two meetings become a whole thing. Somehow, she goes from not caring at all to being convinced that they are going to get married?

This is one of many loose threads that need fixing. Luckily, these feel insignificant against the main theme: Mona’s insecurity becoming madness. It is so interesting to see such weakness from someone so strong. The juxtaposition of her physical strength and mental weakness is striking and hypnotising. Like a very slow car accident, you don’t want to see where she’s headed, but you can’t look away.

Too much, too soon

The inevitable magnetism has a lot to do with the cinematography and set designs too. The abusive amount of detail shots of Mona’s body reaches the comical. The spectator is put in a very voyeuristic position, to the point where, by the end of the movie, you will know her body better than yours. Granted, the narrative is mostly based on her physique in one way or another, but were all of those shots necessary to tell the story? Doubtful.

As for the settings, they are beautiful and horrible at the same time. Why would anyone pay a lot of money to work out in a gym that looks filthy, run down, and old as hell? The idea confuses me even more than the fact that Mona works out with makeup on. But the main attraction setting-wise is the comparison between the gynaecologist’s office and the dentist’s. The first, where she is being warned by her doctor about the dangers of her path, is red with a squishy-looking pattern. It looks like they are talking inside a huge uterus instead of about Mona’s. Whereas the dentist’s office, where she has sex with him instead of a consultation, looks pristine and surgical.

Maybe too much inspiration

The use of spaces to add information to a story is always a plus for storytelling, and really commendable if it is your first time making a feature. Additionally, while the Cronenbergian aesthetic might not appeal to all audiences, it is always a clever choice to get inspiration from your idols in order to find your own style and, while this film says more Cronenberg than Tricarico, the talent and imagination are there, so we might be facing an amazing horror director in the making.

All in all, the sound effects, spaces and characters work well together, making Body Odyssey a solid directorial debut. It does get a little chaotic at times when it tries to say too much, but once Tricarico gets over her reluctance to cut things out of the script, her work will be a force to be reckoned with.

Advice to take from this movie:

  • If your body literally talks to you, go to therapy ASAP.
  • Pursuing perfection is the best way to live depressed and possibly end your life early.
  • Don’t inject random things into your body. Just…don’t.
Kurt (Julian Sands) and Mona (Jacqueline Fuchs).
Source: Body Odyssey (Grazia Tricarico, 2023).

What’s your take? Have you watched Body Odyssey? What do you think of body building? Did you like the aesthetics of the film? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles, check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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