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Swimming Pool

Dive into this summer's sexiest mystery  

Year: 2003 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Swimming Pool

Sarah Morton (Rampling) is a famous British mystery author. Tired of London and seeking inspiration for her new novel, she accepts an offer from her publisher (Dance) to stay at his home in the South of France. It is a beautiful and serene location, just what the writer needs. Nudity, obscenity and drug abuse are not words that Sarah would use to describe her life, but when, unexpectedly, Julie, the publisher’s daughter moves in, she brings to Sarah’s world just this. Where the older woman is conservative and prim, the younger woman is reckless and energetic. Julie’s lifestyle and Sarah’s voyeurism spark off an unsettling series of events, including a possible murder, and soon the author finds it difficult to differentiate between fact and fiction.

One of the summer’s most stunningly visual films, Swimming Pool is one of those rare gems that is often overlooked on the mainstream market. The fantastic screenplay speaks for itself, and the theme of voyeurism is explored in a fresh approach: as a method for inspiration, not just fetishism. Ozon appreciates the beautiful scenery but keeps this in the background, focusing on the progression of plot and character development without sidetracking.

With the two leads being the only main characters, Ozon knew that they would have to be convincing, and the two actresses selected have been a smart choice; the dynamics between the mismatched women enforces the differences between the two. It is when Sarah begins to see Julie's life as a story that is infinitely more interesting than the book she's writing that the plot really sets off, and from here on is a tense and rapid thriller. The ending allows the audience to interpret the events for themselves, without the patronising and uninspiring conclusions that many conventional films offer.

As the audience is drawn into the enigmatic world of the film, Ozon likens this to a swimming pool, with the sun iridescent on the surface. It is only when the viewer dives in headfirst, below the surface, can the film be enjoyed and fully appreciated.

Phil Lurie

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Screenings of this film:

2003/2004 Spring Term (35mm)