The story of 2 tough females: a coach and her star wrestler.
Bruise Ballet opens with a series of shouted instruction in Polish with subtitles: “Execution! Hit her! Yes! Yes! Move around! Break the clinch.” The first shot pans to a middle-aged woman against a fence, rather non-descript with her drab clothes, lack of makeup, hair pulled into a messy ponytail. Renata cups her fingers with their short nails up to her mouth and bellows out her commands: “Push, that’s it. Yeah, break.”
The documentary then moves to wrestlers rolling on the floor, grabbing, pushing their feet against each other, toes pointed up in the air. Accompanying the scenes is a score more appropriate for a real ballet, its notes tripping along softly, then more quickly, and at one point it almost looks like someone in the background is doing a pirouette or some such ballet move (I’m not familiar with the positions or names). The music continues to build as two men pound each other, definitely not something you’d expect from a ballet. (Again, I’m no expert.)
As the music ends, we cut to a gym. Renata seems a little tired as she pulls herself up from the floor. She offers more instructions: “It’s mainly legwork, but don’t forget the hands. Oh, and don’t kick the head.” Then a little half laugh. She continues to direct the two on the mat, reminding them, “You’ve got hands for a reason” and “Don’t you ever put your hands down!”
Renata speaks directly into the camera for a moment to share that she has been training for 30 years, coaching for 20. She becomes animated describing her first time watching practice. Then we see the fighters rolling on the mats as more ballet music swells, and the scene reminds me of a montage of dancers training for a show.
The female wrestler, Ola, seems very close to Renata. Ola laughs at her coach reading a text offering a lucky charm, all the while continuing to wrestle. We learn that Renata considers Ola her mirror image. Renata’s pride in the younger girl is very endearing.
One of my favorite scenes is Renata giving some last minute advice, assigning codes and demonstrating the moves. She looks so unassuming and quiet, but gets worked up quickly and borders on vicious at times. “Go for the liver. Yes! Kick her! Kick her now! One more time!”
I also like the reveal of the reason for the title, Bruise Ballet. Renata explains how her granny would tell her over Sunday dinner that she should go for something more ladylike, such as ballet.
Even though I’m not really interested in wrestling or ballet, I enjoyed this unique perspective of one coach and her star fighter.