Festival Review: Body / Cialo (2015)


Anorexia, ghosts and the broken bond between father and daughter, Malgorzata Szumowska’s Body is a finely acted black comedy about laying grief to rest.


by Mark Wilshin


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

After such heavy topics as prostitution in Elles and homosexuality in In The Name Of, Malgorzata Szumowska takes on anorexia in Body, the story of a father and daughter struggling after the death of his wife and her mother. The bulimic daughter’s anger with her father comes out in fridge terrorism (flyers condemning the cruelty of the meat industry) and therapy sessions, Olga hospitalised after she takes an overdose one night. But Body has an ironic tone from the get-go as it follows the father’s journey from one crime scene to the next, the first the site of a hanging before the suicided corpse gets up and walks away. And then there’s Anna, a cheerful eating disorder therapist (encouraging her patients to let out their inner scream) and medium, writing letters from the dead and pulled along by her enormous Great Dane. Perhaps she’s also looking for answers – bereaved herself after her baby died in a cot death. And yet, we glimpse the wife still, reflected in cafe windows and stepping out in front of Anna’s car. Even the sceptical State Procurator is intrigued when he finds a ghost letter in his wife’s desk, eventually inviting Anna over for a séance. But in the end, the ghost story evaporates in the final scene as Olga and her father finally bond, laughing uncontrollably at the snoring medium. A funny and ultimately touching film about the lost bond between a father and daughter, Body is a change of tack for Szumowska. Neither as challenging nor as thought provoking as her previous films, Body nevertheless succeeds in its subtle and delicate performances (particularly from Janusz Gajos and Maja Ostaszewska). It’s light – not just in tone but also in ideas – and while Malgorzata Szumowska’s film makes for an enjoyable comedy, the absence of a backbone of story does wear a little thin.

Body was shown at the 65th Berlin Film Festival and is now showing at the 59th London Film Festival

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