Dominik Locher’s Goliath acts as a fictional and far more cautionary counterpart to Denis Côté’s bodybuilding documentary A Skin So Soft, also showing in Locarno. Whereas Côté depicted the softer, more mundane aspects of the muscleman experience, Locher presents us with the disastrous consequences of an obsession left to fester. The lead character, none too subtly named David, seeks solace in a pursuit he’s unable to control, a giant he cannot defeat.
David (Sven Schelker) and Jessy (Jasna Fritzi Bauer) share an incipient, playful, youthful love. Jessy gets pregnant and the couple equivocates on keeping the baby. Returning from a night out, both are assaulted by a belligerent drunk. The possibility of becoming a father and the inability to protect his girlfriend leads David to a drastic although perhaps understandable response. Encouraged and facilitated by his friend Ludo (José Barros), David starts a strict powerlifting regime, which includes significant steroid use. These steroids achieve two things: they temporarily release David from his immediate obligations, offering a cathartic release from his relationship and coming parenthood; and they invite fits of anger upon him, damaging his work, friendships and the future family he’s desperate to provide for. Although naïve and emotionally fragile, David is an unsympathetic character – as his drug use becomes more problematic his tendency to violence becomes more inexcusable. He gains a great sense of entitlement from buying a house and expensive items for the forthcoming baby, while berating Jessy for her drinking habits. The grander his delusions, the more remote his chance of becoming a worthy father.
The film convincingly depicts the insecurities of a young man entering into parenthood, although questionably at the expense of the mother’s perhaps more relevant experience. And rather than showing a shifting, more layered descent into mania, the picture prefers to emphasise David’s relapse into steroid use. Although this gives Locher the opportunity to present several grimace-worthy injection shots, it does make a few sections somewhat repetitive. The interest here lies in how we judge David. His mental fragility can be taken note of, but he must be understood ultimately as a loathsome figure. In attempting to become twice who he was, he ends up a tenth of it. Come the end, he’s a big, buff geezer. But a man? Not on anyone’s terms.
Goliath does not have a UK release date yet.