Although it features a murder, François Ozon’s Swimming Pool is more about a mystery writer than a mystery.Charlotte Rampling is Sarah Morton, a middle-aged crime novelist who lives with her father and churns out bestsellers with such unlikely names as “Dorwell Wears a Kilt”. Stuck for an idea for another Inspector Dorwell adventure, and irritated at her publisher (Charles Dance) taking her for granted, Sarah accepts an invitation to stay at his holiday home in the south of France.
The house has a swimming pool, and the clear blue of the water possibly symbolises the French ideal of liberty. Not only does Sarah free herself of writer’s block, she slowly begins to unwind and shake off her inhibitions. She eventually finds fraternity - friendship from a most unlikely source - with Julie, her publisher’s apparently unruly teenage daughter (Ludivine Sagnier).
Ozon keeps the pace leisurely as he explores the cagey relationship between the two women. He’s worked with Rampling (Under the Sand) and Sagnier (8 Women, Water Drops on Burning Rocks) before and both actresses reward him with sharp performances. The crisply coloured images of cinematographer Yorick Le Saux reflect the precision of the uptight Sarah, before she is loosened by the free-living but vulnerable Julie. The death doesn’t occur till almost the end. Ozon teases us, briskly sidestepping the trappings of the detective genre so he can leave us with an enigma of his own.
Aided by Philippe Rombi’s caressing score, Swimming Pool has the inviting pull of a carefree holiday.If the 50th Sydney Film Festival were a restaurant, Swimming Pool is a cool and refreshing draught of water.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.