by William Engel
If there’s any doubt in your mind that synchronized swimming is a legitimate sport, that doubt will be extinguished upon viewing “Perfect”, a spellbinding documentary about one of the athletic world’s most under-appreciated pursuits.
“Perfect” gives us an inside look at the Canadian synchronized swimming team as they prepare for the national tryouts – which will qualify them for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, if they do well enough. The coach, Marie-Lou Morin, takes us through a typical day of training and practice for the team, as we learn of both the athletic and artistic aspects of the sport, and what the athletes have to go through in order to perfect their craft.
Through striking cinematography and a trance-like electronic score, we see just how intense the life of a synchronized swimming team is. We’re treated to extended shots of their vigorous aerobic and weight-based training, and the footage of their performance lets us see just how much precision and coordination is involved in the event. A single performer out of sync with the team means that the entire routine has to be started from the beginning.
And synchronized swimming isn’t just physically demanding; it’s surprisingly dangerous. One scene features a montage of the swimmers listing off the injuries they sustained participating in the sport; broken bones, dislocated limbs and even concussions are all par for the course. Morin herself was the victim of a particularly nasty injury that ultimately ended her career prematurely.
Worse still, in “synchro” (as the swimmers call it) there’s always the lingering possibility that all of their hard work will be for naught. As Morin explains, the judging for these competitions is purely subjective, and there’s a lot of politics involved – so even if you absolutely nail your routine, you could lose if the judges don’t like you for whatever reason. The film doesn’t attempt to hide the swimmers’ disillusionment after they finish seventh in the national tryouts, below their rival teams in Spain and Italy.
Regardless, the team still comes out of the competition with a tremendous amount of respect for the sport they’ve chosen – and by the end of the film’s run time, you’ll respect it too. Marie-Lou Morin puts it thusly: “Synchro to most people is quite easy. They see the smiles, the makeup, the hair gel, the flashy suits; it’s kind of a joke to them. But it’s a really hard sport, and really impressive. It’s what the top athletes do, plus no oxygen.”
For more information about he film go here