“Gentle”: A Journey of Art and Brutal Truths

By Stephanie Ornelas

The world of bodybuilding has long been known for its pursuit of the perfect, sculpted body. Men and women go to extreme lengths and take outrageous measures to ensure they can compete to be the best in the world.

Gentle proves to be a very sobering experience, following Hungarian bodybuilder Edina as she journeys to the world championships, and the extreme measures — both mentally and phycially — she has to take to help pay for the costs of her training. 

Played by real-life bodybuilder Eszter Csonka, Edina’s character shows us the passion so many bodybuilders have and the complex situations female bodybuilders can go through.     

The film was mainly created to shine light on the art of the sport, but director Anna Eszter Nemes also wanted it to be about the art of relationships. 

During the cast Q&A following the screening, Nemes joins co-director László Csuja to discuss what inspired them to create the intimate film as well as the themes and interests they were trying to explore during the writing process.  

“The art of bodybuilding — female bodybuilding to be exact — is complex, and we wanted the film to express that, but we also wanted it to show how certain relationships work, especially in this industry, and how people change,” said Nemes. 

Through Edina’s delicate and complex journey of intensive training, substance abuse, and eventual health revelations, the film sends a message that resonates with a lot of contemporary conversations regarding athletes being pushed to their limits, and understanding what they go through mentally and physically. 

“Female bodybuilding is a very contemporary phenomenon because there is a lot of pressure on women. It’s very complex,” says Csuja. “We wanted the audience to understand why these athletes do what they do and how the sport works.” 

The film takes a sport that can be highly objectified and examines it through the eyes of the bodybuilder to reveal its true art. And in that, it offers a fresh perspective of what the athletes go through and what they give up to have it all. 

“Being a bodybuilder is like being any other athlete,” says Nemes. “You are one person in the sport, and you’re another person outside of it. This is a lifestyle and it’s about expressing yourself through your body. We wanted the film to convey the struggles, but also the art that comes out of it.”  

Edina’s journey takes her deeper into her own heart and mind, forcing her to question whether the end justifies the means and acknowledge the  true cost of her soul-wrenching pursuit to the top.