Swimming Pool


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Swimming Pool
"Swimming Pool integrates visceral and psychological mystery in a manner which is sometimes compelling and, at other times, too clever for its own good."

Centering around a London-based author of detective novels who goes to stay at her agent's French villa when she finds herself unable to write, Swimming Pool integrates visceral and psychological mystery in a manner which is sometimes compelling and, at other times, too clever for its own good.

It all hinges on a curious performance from Charlotte Rampling. Seeing an actress of her age permitted to carry such a sensual film is itself interesting, and director François Ozon never shies away from the issues that this raises; but Rampling was always a little stilted, and at times it's difficult to engage with her.

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Though much of the story revolves around her disinterest in life and the way she has built barriers between herself and the world, she is at times too brusque for one to believe that the actress is interested in the role. As the character's vulnerability is revealed, she finds herself on surer ground. There are some fascinating scenes depicting the author's relationship with food. These are a microcosm of her struggle to repress her sensual reactions to the world as she tries to deal with the consequences of failing to overcome her obsession with her agent. One does feel rather sorry for the agent himself (though Charles Dance doesn't provide him with much depth), as he may never have done anything wrong; but in this film, perception is every bit as relevant as fact. In this way, it examines the author's relationship with characters both real and fictional.

Taking the part of sensuality, as the agent's daughter, is the remarkable Ludivine Sagnier, a young actress who knows how to make use of her physical assets without ever losing her grip on audience emotions. Sporty and promiscuous and, most of the time, utterly at ease with herself, the girl inspires jealousy, maternal protectiveness and implicit lust in the older woman, representing a whole spectrum of issues which she cannot come to terms with about herself.

Here is the new obsession which the author must entertain in order to break with the past, just as she must abandon the security of her famous characters in order to create a new book which can really satisfy her. Along the way, the film explores something too rarely approached in crime fiction: the author's real feelings about murder; and there it uncovers something much darker. The strengths of Swimming Pool are as much in what it doesn't say as what it does. For all its flaws, it's a film which many people will fall in love with; it's sexy, and it offers considerably more intellectual stimulation than the average box-office offering.

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2007
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A prickly English author looks for inspiration in a hedonistic housemate.
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Angus Wolfe Murray **1/2

Director: François Ozon

Writer: François Ozon, Emmanuèle Bernheim

Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Ludivine Sagnier, Charles Dance, Marc Fayolle, Jean-Marie Lamour, Mireille Mossé, Michel Fau, Jean-Claude Lecas, Emilie Gavois Kahn, Erarde Forestali

Year: 2002

Runtime: 103 minutes

Country: France


EIFF 2003
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