Raising the Bar – Film Review

I find that at this stage of my prep, I’m doing A LOT of training. Along with my workouts, I’m doing some supplemental work daily (which I’ll discuss in another post next week) which at this stage requires some extra motivation at times.

Cue various bodybuilding movies. Being the insular subculture that it is, very few people can appreciate how difficult (and masochistic) the bodybuilding pre-contest journey can be. Apart from Pumping Iron, there has not really been an expose detailing the trials and tribulations of a competitor.

I was loaned the independent documentary ‘Raising the Bar’ by a fellow competitor and trainer at my gym who is also competing along side me in October. I had never heard of the film’s subject, amateur pro bodybuilder David Pulcinella before, but the trilogy of films charts Dave’s quest to realising his dream to turn professional.

It’s an interesting look into the life of what goes into the training, preparation and sacrifice required of this endeavour at the extreme end of this subculture’s spectrum. Old school in his thinking and approach, he disavows any modern day methods preferring an almost insane adherence to maximum sacrifice in every area of his life. We see him boiling and eating chicken breasts en-masse for months on end. He sacrifices relationships and family gatherings because they conflict with his eating/training and contest schedules. While his methods work for him, (and he carries an unbelievable amount of vascularity even during the ”off-season” despite sporting one of the largest GH guts I’ve ever seen before) there were many times when I thought that Pulcinella clearly represents everything I dislike about this ‘sport’. The rabid fascination and narcissistic preoccupation with the self. The bitchiness towards fellow competitors and the perpetuation of every negative stereotype that reinforces the general public’s disdainful perception of what it means to be involved with the activity of bodybuilding. Some people would say, “Who fucking cares what Mr and Mrs Mainstream might think anyway”, and to an extent I agree. However, those of us that move through ”normal” life and are affected by the opinions of others in our professional lives sometimes find ourselves shrinking from the often damning consequences of being labeled a ”bodybuilder”. Pulcinella at the end of it all emerges as nothing more than a stereotype and caricature that is often parodied in popular culture (and also in those Musclehedz comic strips from way back).His world is very small, his life a representation of how obsession with a goal all consuming inevitably leads to unbalance and unfulfillment

So overall, yes I enjoyed this series of documentaries. Yes, at times I found his journey inspiring. But at the same time I felt that sobering message at the back of my mind reminding me that at the end of the day, I want this activity to be life-affirming and not life-destroying. Bodybuilding complements my life but doesn’t define it.



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