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An Experimental Film, Interweaving Sound And Light — Body Odyssey (Raindance Film Festival)

3 min read

Director Grazia Tricario spoke of her deep affection for the late Julian Sands, star of Body Odyssey. Sands, tragically lost his life hiking in California during a severe winter storm in 2023. Tricario, told the audience at the London 2024 Raindance film festival that Sands was integral through the creative process, and described how his brain was always buzzing with ideas.

It is obvious watching Body Odyssey, that Sands was enthusiastic and energised by the script (a detail confirmed by the director). He puts in a chilling performance as Kurt, a disciplinary, oddly fetishizing elite physical trainer.  His client is Mona (Jacqueline Fuchs), who is aiming to be the best female bodybuilder in the world at the Miss Universe competition. Perfection is the name of the game.

Kurt is constantly reaching for the unreachable through Mona, using legal and illegal means to achieve it. He demands a strict regime of diet and exercise that pushes Mona to her limits. She meets Nic (Adam Misik), a twenty something gym enthusiast, and her priorities begin to shift. She beings to question what she really wants, finding emotional connection as important as career achievement. Kurt's hard-line approach allows for no distractions and a conflict begins to arise between the pair.

The film throughout has an undercurrent of sexual tension. Mona's body is shown repeatedly in an alluring, desirable way, with the men in the film adoring her physical perfection. The cinematography is effective in showcasing her with an experimental interweaving of sound and lighting. The director also uses montages to showcase the poetic nature of the film, alluding to the mythical nature of the title. Mona's physical perfection is compared to the Greek legends of the odyssey, with the use of stark imagery and god-like narration used to portray this.

From the very start, it keeps the viewer at the edge of their seats. The unique nature of the films cinematography and narrative leaves you guessing as to what will happen next. It builds tension slowly and as it progresses it begins to increase in speed. The films final third however, could have been edited better. Some scenes in the latter stages could have been shortened, creating a more punchy film.

Body Odyssey also raises some important issues. In bodybuilding the prevalence of steroid use is common knowledge. The true extent of the damaging side effects are less so. Hair loss and infertility are just some of the life changing risks that the drug can cause. In Mona's quest to reach the pinnacle of bodybuilding the risks she believes are worth it. Her crisis of conscience forms an integral part of the narrative, should she risk everything for her ambitions? Her pursuit of perfection at times pushes her to the limits of what her body can handle. In some scenes it is truly terrifying how far she is willing to go.

The film is an ambitious and highly creative endeavour for the first time director. It commendably pushes the boat out to what is possible within storytelling. Overall it achieves two things, being a film that is unique, and secondly raising important issues that contains a narrative with a moral centre. It is a highly enjoyable watch and a must see this year.

Body Odyssey screened at Raindance Film Festival 2024