Bodybuilders, this docudrama covers the culture and life styles of the peculiar sport through different connecting story lines of contenders leading up to the coveted Mr. Olympia competition. Its main focus is on Arnold Schwarzenegger who is preparing for what is hopefully his 6th victory at Mr. Olympia and covers his extensive training and preparation to that comes with sculpting his body to perfection.
Schwarzenegger’s opponent as presented in the film is Lou Ferrigno which makes some unintentional awesomeness in the film. The Terminator versus The Hulk in a bodybuilding competition makes you laugh for a moment but the film shows the stark difference for people in the sport. Arnold is at the top, he has the success, the fame and the support while Lou is at the bottom relying on only himself and his father to get him to where he needs to be. The film looks at other bodybuilders as well in different competitions exploring the strain of the sport and the pranks they play on each other to psych the others out
The filmmakers tell these stories rather well but because of the nature of docudrama certain elements of the film are manipulated. This is not like regular documentary, the filmmakers are using real life events but are building their own narrative around them. It doesn’t try to force these people to change however, there doesn’t appear to be a script the interviews are the people’s actual thoughts on bodybuilding. Pumping Iron also serves as an origin for Schwarzenegger, we all know who he becomes in later life so its fascinating to see what he was like before his mega stardom.
It’s an interesting look into a culture that boomed in later years, the commitment and passion from the subjects is moving. I myself don’t really understand Bodybuilding but the film shows you why people frame their lives around achieving this greatness. It has its own culture just like anything else you either like it or don’t. This film is a great representation of this culture and like any documentary it allows the audience to make a choice on how they feel about it. They also do that with the characters, they portray rivalries between the body builders, how Schwarzenegger plays mind games against Ferrigno for his own benefit.
It’s a strange world to look into but Pumping Iron shows how bodybuilding is so much more than muscled men poising on a podium. You can really connect into the film because of Schwarzenegger’s presence, a relatable face that keeps you interested. The others featured have their moments but this is Schwarzenegger’s film and the filmmakers and the man himself doesn’t let you forget it.