Features presents a film directed by Francois Ozon. Written
by Ozon and Emmanuele Bernheim. In French with English
subtitles. Running time: 102 minutes. Rated R (for strong
sexual content, nudity, language, some violence and drug
Charlotte Rampling, Ludivine Sagnier, Charles Dance, Marc
Fayolle, Jean-Marie Lamour.
This review contains some minor spoilers. Continue reading
at your own discretion.
François Ozon's first English-language feature, is
not a thriller per say. It does involve a murder, but the
killing is not investigated for more than fifteen minutes,
and it has no real consequences. What Ozon has accomplished
with Swimming Pool is a combination of thriller, character
study, and an examination of the line between what is truth
and what is fiction. It is a movie Alfred Hitchcock would
have undoubtably appreciated greatly.
has become fashionable these days, Swimming Pool contains
a major twist. But, unlike many lesser films, the twist is
not the point of the movie. In fact, its main purpose is to
involve us greater into the mind of its heroine. If the viewer
is inattentive, the conclusion will be perplexing and undecipherable.
As it is, it will take much thought and perhaps even a second
viewing for even the most involved viewer to piece everything
heroine of Swimming Pool, Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling),
is a British "crime fiction writer", who initally
seems like a younger version of Agathy Christie's Miss Marple
(one character even makes this observation). As the film opens
she is tired and worn out of writing the same kind of novel
over and over again. She pays a visit to her money-hungry
puplisher and (implied) former lover, John Bosland (Charles
Dance), who offers to let Sarah stay at his French home -
the peace and quiet, he says, will be perfect for her to begin
work again; it even has a swimming pool. But as soon as she
settles down and starts work, Julie (Ludivine Sagnier), John's
rebellious, oversexed daughter, moves in. Sarah attempts to
set boundries, but Julie constantly oversteps them, going
out late and keeping Sarah up at night with her constant lovemaking.
Sarah finds out more about Julie's ambiguous past, however,
the two draw closer, until they're relationship becomes almost
that of mother and daughter. There is not a complete role
shift, but by the end of the film Sarah has smoked pot and
Julie (who spends most of the movie partially or fully nude)
has put on some clothes.
is much like Ozon's previous films - slow-paced, deliberate,
and engrossing. We are drawn into the lives of these characters,
and begin to wish we knew more about their daily lives. When
the twist turns the entire thing upside down, it is at once
shocking and fascinating. Certain moments, like the encounter
between Sarah and a quickly aging midget, seem downright Lynchian.
two lead actresses have both worked with Ozon previously.
Rampling (Ozon's Under the Sand) is outstanding as
the sour-tempered Sarah, and even before her change, we sense
the wild part of her trying to escape. Sagnier, who worked
with Ozon last year on 8 Women, is radiant as Julie.
But she provides more than a fantastic body, impressing upon
us that Julie, even while partying and drinking, is simply
hiding from her own internal demons.
comes in at a fairly short 102 minutes. As the credits roll,
we feel a distinct sense of satisfaction, even as we are attempting
to figure out what has just occured. It is complicated, and
there is only one explanation that satisfies completely, but
the film never becomes obtuse or ridiculous, as some of David
Lynch's movies do. Some may leave the theater feeling confused
or dissatisfied, but for those willing to invest some effort
into their viewing experience, Swimming Pool is a good
example of involving and fascinating cinema.
2003 Matt Noller