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BLACK NIGHTS 2023 First Feature Competition

Review: Body Odyssey


- Grazia Tricarico’s debut is an overly ambitious tale about a forty-something bodybuilder obsessed with perfection

Review: Body Odyssey
Jacqueline “Jay” Fuchs (left) and Julian Sands (right) in Body Odyssey

The close-knit world of bodybuilders has already been thoroughly explored in other films such as Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler and, more recently, in László Csuja and Anna NemesGentle [+see also:
film review
interview: László Csuja and Anna Nemes
film profile
, which premiered in Sundance last year. In her debut feature, titled Body Odyssey [+see also:
interview: Grazia Tricarico
film profile
, Italy’s Grazia Tricarico chooses to take a more visceral path by offering a deep dive into an athlete’s psyche. The picture played in the First Feature Competition of this year’s Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.

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Body Odyssey, written by Marco Morana, Giulio Rizzo and the helmer herself, follows Mona (Jacqueline “Jay” Fuchs), a bodybuilder in her forties who is obsessed with her body. The Miss Body Universe competition she intends to join is taking place in about three months. Her coach Kurt (the late Julian Sands) supports her efforts and strictly monitors her progress along the way. While following her unshapely ideal, her body starts to literally speak to her — cinematically, this is rendered through a low-pitched, cavernous voice. In a sauna, a casual encounter with a young boy, Nic (Adam Misik), seems to trigger a downward spiral.

What initially looks like a psychological drama about body and mind gradually takes an over-the-top approach, sometimes to ridiculous effect. One day, for example, Mona’s love for and obsession with Nic brings her to show up with no notice at his place. However, Nic is not there and his parents are not sure when he’ll be back, as he is supposedly hanging out with his girlfriend. Mona nevertheless decides to wait for him there. A very strange sequence depicting a nonsensical conversational loop between the bodybuilder and Nic’s parents follows. The situation gets tense, to the point where they begin to fear for their safety and threaten to call the police. The clunky editing, the parents’ constant puzzlement, and Mona’s flat, cold-hearted tone of voice make it one of the most off-key moments in the film.

Throughout, all the actors speak English with their own native (and non-native) accents and we may feel the story is set in a sort of dimension out of time and space. This undefined context, however, doesn’t serve the story well and makes the cast’s acting seem even less natural; this is particularly visible with Jacqueline Fuchs’ performance. Besides, the lead actress carries most of the weight of this very difficult project, and her lack of acting experience is plain to see on screen.

Huge efforts were certainly made to create a sophisticated image in order to depict the abyss of Mona’s inner world and the dark, claustrophobic environments she inhabits in reality. There is also an extreme attention to detail while lensing her body. The visually appealing shots, however, are not accompanied by solid writing and direction. 

All in all, Grazia Tricarico’s debut is simply over ambitious. There is too much on this plate, and most of the superfluous ingredients irreversibly alter the taste, transforming the film into a bizarre hodgepodge between oneiric psychodrama with thriller elements and unintentional comedy.

Body Odyssey was produced by Revok Film (Italy), Fenix Entertainment (Italy) and Amka Films (Switzerland). Rome-based outfit Intramovies is handling the film’s international sales.

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