QUICK AND DIRTY: LIVE FROM TALLINN
Based on the real life story of Olympic diving champion Andrea Absolonová (Natália Germáni), this deploys a narrative that splits readily into three separate parts. In the first, she trains for the Olympics. Until one day, in the second, after executing a seemingly perfect dive, she wakes up in hospital fitted with a neck brace to the news that she’ll never dive again. And, finally, in the third, she reinvents herself as a porn actress.
The first section – her Olympic career – takes the viewer inside the sports training regimen, all the minutiae that are required to achieve greatness and rise to the very top of the competition in the athlete’s chosen field. As the film’s title suggests, it’s all about keeping the body in perfect condition to achieve the dream. Andrea shares a flat with her younger sister Lucie (Denisa Barešová) who is under no such pressure, and on one occasion Andrea comes home to find her sister having a party, with lots of drinks Andrea mustn’t touch if she is to maintain her Olympic diet regime. Andrea goes to the fridge, takes her can of fruit juice or whatever and shuts herself in her room. We know from an earlier scene that both she and her sister like to dance to heavy rock bands, and Lucie gets fed up that Andrea is too busy training to do that with her often. It’s all about the athlete’s sacrifice, and those around her dealing with that and supporting her even as they also deal with living their own lives. A very difficult balance for all concerned.
The second section – her coming to terms with her injury – sees her reevaluate her life. She can’t initially believe it when she’s told by a doctor that her Olympic career is over, even as he tells her she has recovered far better than he would expect as in most cases like hers, the patient would never walk again, whereas she will. Meaning that although she may not presently see it that way, she is incredibly lucky. Refusing to either believe him or take his advice, she heads over to the swimming pool to train only for her coach, with whom she’s always had a good professional relationship, to tell her that it’s over, and that she is now training someone else.
After some necessary recuperation, she has to do something to earn some money and get back her independence, so she takes a job working in a supermarket, alternating between shelf-stacking and checkout duties.
She has also had a good professional relationship with her personal photographer (Cyril Dobrý from The Chambermaid, Mariana Čengel Solčanská, 2022, shown in last year’s Critics’ Picks; All Quiet on the Western Front, Edward Berger, 2022) which she has never allowed to get physical, although she’s clearly attracted to him. However, now that she’s no longer fiercely protective of her career as an Olympian, this path is open to her, and they are soon sleeping together.
The third section – her porn career – comes about because she is aware that her new lover’s prior photographing her as a sportswoman was not his main gig; he spends most of his time shooting porn videos, and she asks him to take her into that world. Although he has previously warned a fellow pornographer to keep his greedy hands off this particular girl, he nevertheless gives her a contract. Her sister is sickened, her father (Martin Finger) rents and re-rents her videos from the local store so that no-one else will, while her mother (Zuzana Mauréry, also from The Chambermaid) initially warms to the huge increases in income as her daughter buys her gifts. For actresses, however, it’s a ruthless business, and the pace is demanding. Eventually, it takes its toll on her health.
The decision to include all three sections rather than just one allows for comparisons between the worlds of Olympic sports and the porn industry, most notably in that both are about the human body. In a sense, the linking second section is about Andrea’s body too, both in the sense that once she recovers she learns that she will no longer be able to push her body to peak form as she did training for the Olympics, and that she discovers a certain freedom in her personal life once she lets that discipline go. She clearly loves performing with her tuned body before rapt spectators, and a supermarket job whilst paying the bills in the short term clearly affords her no opportunity to do this. However, becoming a porn actress completely fits that bill.
As portrayed here, she loves taking part in the adult entertainment world, but has reckoned without its taboo nature and the possible effect it might have on her nearest and dearest. In effect, it’s three different roles – the Olympian, the recovering patient and the porn actress – and Germáni convinces in all of them. You come away with bodily memories both of the sportswoman – exercising the balls of the feet and the toes, dropping somersaulting from the board into the swimming pool water below – and of the porn actress on a series of film shoots with ludicrous scenarios, relaxing with colleagues by (ironically) a swimming pool reeking of money at a private house and garden.
In addition to the 18-rated version shown at the festival and due for release in both Czechia (November 15th) and Slovakia (November 22nd), there also exists a 15-rated version to be released alongside it. (There are some fairly obvious explicit close-ups of genital penetration, shot by porn actor and actress stand-ins, so these will go.) It’s interesting to note that images of physical, sexual activity constitute a taboo which images of sporting activity do not, a fact very much in line with the thematic areas explored by the film.
Her Body just premiered at the Critics’ Picks Competition of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.