Thursday, March 08, 2007

Swimming Pool: A Deeper Reading


I watched, "Swimming Pool", a 2003 movie about a British detective novelist Sarah Morton at some sort of a mid-life and inspiration crisis who while holidaying in her publishers villa in France has to share her living space with the publisher's daughter Julie.


The imdb link will provide more details for the curious. The movie is peppered with false hints, leading one to many different directions and finally ending in an entirely unhinted manner. It starts with a cornered writer in the midst of a creative block, to a lover-publisher relation, to an unruly wild Julie, a hidden past, a negligent father, a long suffering mother till finally blending fact, fantasy, imagination and reality. The film left me confounded for the many questions it leaves unanswered with rather glaring lose ends strewn about thorough the duration. The film appears in parts to be a confrontation of characters, the stereotypical stiff spinster British Sarah with an equally prototype half French Julie. Sarah is just 'a frustrated English woman who writes about dirty things but never does them' and that she could 'shove her uptight morals up your ass' in Julie's estimation. Julie is young and unbridled, savoring her nudity and a nature's child, who actually does the dirty things, coming home with a new man everytime she goes out. The ambiguities in the movie makes it a very fascinating experience. The other characters like Marcel the gardener, his prematurely ageing midget daughter, the waiter Franck, lend an element of surrealism to the movie.

The point about writing this post was that while sharing my discovery of this movie, it was also about making sense of the online readings, I encountered. In the case of this film, thanks to an imdb discussion, I found links to an interview[1] of the director Francois Ozon, one review by Emanuele Saccarelli. The director in his explanation of why he made the movie says that, "I wanted to show that when you create, the lived, the imagined, and the written get all mixed together. Swimming Pool keeps everything on the same plane: fantasy, reality, creation...And it's [the film is] full of false starts. It's like that when you create a story. You begin in one direction, then take another. The viewer thinks there's going to be a lesbian liaison between Charlotte and Ludivine -- but it turns maternal and tender. I thought it would be too obvious to get them into a sexual relationship. I lay down all sorts of clues, then choose one or another direction...I'm actually talking about myself, my own creative method. I wanted to show how I work".

Saccarelli's review starts with the writers maxim, “write about what you know” and how it can also, "be taken as a license to wallow in the narrow confines of the artist’s own existence, to insist in illuminating every dusty corner, every trivial dead-end of his personal life". Further Saccarelli states that, "A writer might fail in an attempt to examine war, love, or a particular historical epoch, and we might forgive him...there is something singularly unredeemable about a bad work written by a writer about writing. The vain and insubstantial French film Swimming Pool has recently joined the ranks of this sort of work".

The other being a review from a feminist perspective, "The Swimming Pool is much deeper than its critics and even its director seem to realize. Reading a interview[2] with Ozon about it, you get a banal explanation that's enough to turn anybody off the film". The review goes on to state that "once you write it/film it/paint it, the work of art's meaning can no longer be defined by its maker (sometimes it can't even be discerned by him or her). That's what it means to give a work to the world. Even if you give it by selling it, it's still given, and people are free to find in it what got in there without the work's creator's conscious intent". But despite the harshness of this opinion, in the interview[1], when Ozon is asked, "...in the film...how the imaginary and the real link up. Is there a discrete moment when the real veers into the imaginary?" Ozon answers that, "I don't want to give you the key. I myself have an opinion about it, obviously -- but I wanted to keep the film open-ended and let every viewer imagine what he wishes. It's a movie that gives viewers the freedom to make their own film". I find this idea quiet inspiring. Though it would be important to state that for all the thinking, speaking and writing about films, the question remains as to how valid are such readings. If I imagine myself as bringing to screen a particular sequence, story, emotion or idea, I can have so many different motivations and reasons for doing them in a particular way, totally exclusive of what someone reads into it! But nevertheless this tool is a tribute to the power of imagination and the creative process.

I have used the reviewers to state my points. The first being the director's efforts to map the 'creative process' and the writer Sarah Morton being his alter ego. I agree with Saccarelli in his assessment that this does not work. But what worked for me was the drama with the plot being laid out in its own time and the number of blind alleys that the plot weaves through. The second bit which really turns me on these days is working a movie out especially when the movie itself fails to provide answers leaving you confounded and when no rational explanations make the cut. That element through which a director draws attention to the raison d'etre of cinema, that it is merely a fantasy, is while a cheap trick (considering the ease with which it is done), still the most redeeming aspect of cinema and its magical sway over our imaginations.

4 comments:

utpal said...

hey satya... i would love to see this movie... i hope u have a copy.
The holi pics suggest you had a good time.... also i was taken aback by the new smashing look of the blog.

svety said...

I saw this movie when it came to PVR - second day I think.And,like u I went and read up on it in a big way post the movie. Actually I do that often and with this movie, I didn't have much option. I was lost is an understatement. I still am.I like movies that leave a lot to interpretation also. But this one was a complete bouncer...

Anonymous said...

hey...saw this movie a few months ago on zee studio. n hmmm...wdnt even pretend that i understood the end! :|

Abhigyan said...

An art movie, the way we know art movies..But the babe is quite hot...
It is all right, till you try and decipher the end..