Sunday, October 9, 2011

Swimming Pool

By s. Sunday, October 9, 2011 , , , , , , ,
(102 min, 2003)
Director: François Ozon
Writers: François Ozon (screenplay), Emmanuèle Bernheim
Stars: Charlotte Rampling, Charles Dance and Ludivine Sagnier

Author's journey.


“Every secret of a writer's soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works. “
- Virginia Woolf

“Swimming Pool” focuses on Sarah (Charlotte Rampling), a rigid and conservative, yet successful English mystery writer. Sarah's personal life and new novel take a dramatic twist when she meets her publisher's sexy, free-spirited daughter Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) at his gracious mansion in the French countryside.

The movie is a great thriller, but also can be viewed as a meticulous study of author's mind and creative process – the plots, the events, the characters, that after a while start shaping into a book. “Swimming Pool” greatest assets include fantastic acting and intriguing story, which in the end, will turn out to be something completely different from what you assumed in the beginning.

Sarah is a middle aged woman, who writes mystery novels filled with sex and blood, although she lives peaceful life. She is not very fond of people – when her fan asks her for autograph on the subway, she pretends she isn't a famous author. She keeps her interactions with people short and distant. Sarah lives her life alone, depriving herself of many joys – she eats healthy meals, she doesn't have a boyfriend, she doesn't live a wild life. We may suspect she did once, but now she settled for peaceful existence. But her mind is still where it was when she was young – creating crime stories, using its vivid imagination to create complicated plots and colorful characters.

Sarah stays in her editor's house where she meets his daughter Julie, a complete opposite of her. Julie has casual sex, eats whatever she wants, swims in the pool naked and uses life to its fullest. As the time passes two women start to bond, Sarah is fascinated to hear about Julie's life and starts to write book about her. She is also borrowing a little from her lifestyle, but still decides to intervene when Julie goes too far in her encounter with men, feeling somewhat protective of her.

The writer is fond of Julie enough to help her cover up a certain incident that will take place next to a pool. We find out at that point of the movie, that Sarah would wish her life was just as her novels, filled with danger and excitement and she doesn't have a problem with morally reprehensible deeds – she doesn't experience second thoughts or guilt, she just does what needs to be done.

By the end of the movie a very clever twist arrives – Sarah is leaving her publisher's office, after informing him she found new one and plans to publish the book she always wanted to write, that differs significantly from her previous work. When she is on her way out, his daughter, Julia appears. She looks similar to the one we met in France, but she is clearly not the same person. Sarah is not surprised, she and Julia don't even exchange quick “hello”. Why? Because Sarah imagined Julie, her personality, her story, the events that took place in the mansion. Her look in the end of the movie is a playful expression that author has when he is confronting the view of a person she carried in her mind with the real Julia. She's not insane or anything like it – she's well aware that Julie was her imagination – she is dedicating the book to her because she is thanking her for inspiration.

“Swimming Pool” is a fantastically constructed film, something that is indispensable in the thriller – I loved how the director used colors and other devices to suggest a little bit about characters. Sarah's coldness is reflected in blue color, Julie's passion and youth in red. The book Sarah writes in the end is entitled “Swimming Pool” - red letters on blue background. I believe because of that book Sarah finally let the playful, joyful side of her outside and now she lives a happy life. The plot also includes many red herrings and false leads, for example the phone call to the mansion from the publisher. It is impossible to figure out the ending before director decides it's the right time for it.

The music fits the movie and its slow pace is appropriate, because the film is carried by two fascinating characters. Charlotte Rampling is one of those actresses who appear on screen and instantly captivate you. She has something in her, something that fascinates you. She is not drop dead gorgeous and I'm starting to think this is something most great actresses share – she is a beautiful woman, but it's her strength and powerful personality that keeps you watching. And she gives that strength to her character. Ludivine Sagnier was a great choice to play adventurous Julie, she embodies her wildness and presents well how deep down Julie just wanted to be loved, having not experienced much of that in her life, when her father didn't care much about her and her mother was dead.

“Swimming Pool” is definitely one of the best thrillers of recent years and its wonderfulness lies in the fact that it presents this fantastically told story, with amazing characters and it leaves the conclusions to the viewer. The interpretation I wrote is just one of many possible ones. Some people even say, that maybe in the beginning scene in the subway she was telling the truth – maybe she is not an author at all, but the entire film is her daydream. It is the movie that can be viewed many times, because of its delicate atmosphere, deep character study and riveting performance from Charlotte Rampling.



  1. Came here from your Movie of the Month post - now I definitely can't wait to see this!

    1. Looking forward to hearing what you think of it!

  2. I loved this movie. It's one of those great thrillers that would have influenced Hitchcock back in the day.

    1. Yeah it was really great mystery with brilliantly created atmosphere, glad you liked the film!