Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Swimming Pool

I'm not sure if it's more disappointing to watch a film that has a good idea but lacks something in the execution or one that's just bad. Swimming Pool left me with a great sense of character and a certain feeling of triumph, but it also left a lot of questions and those of us watching it with rather puzzled expressions.

The movie's depiction of mystery writer Sarah Morton's transformation from uptight and dissatisfied to radiant and creatively fulfilled is an interesting and inspiring thing to watch. Ludovine Sagnier's performance as Julie, the daughter of Morton's publisher who is sharing the same house in France, is also inspiring for different reasons. The film is shot beautifully, with plenty of natural light and isolated spaces for Morton to lose herself in. It's the pacing that needs work, with an ambiguously real plot which only really gets resolved in the last two minutes of the film. Is Julie really there? Is she Morton's alter ego? Her alter-daughter? Even the ending doesn't clear these questions up, and while in retrospect there are interpretations which satisfy, the director could have made the revelations which explain Morton's transformation more explicit.

I don't enjoy being beaten over the head with something. I prefer a film's message to be shown, not told. But if the film gives me nothing at all and expects me to learn something just the same, it seems empty and careless. In watching the deleted scenes it quickly becomes apparent why they were deleted and what they would have done to the film if kept. The pacing would have been slowed even further but the mystery of Julie's presence would have been eliminated; something that may sound like a bad thing until you remember that in the finished film it was never cleared up.

There were things I liked about this movie. I liked the lighting and the feel of everything; it captured the mood and the location perfectly. The performances were great, especially given the bilingual requirements and Sagnier's transformation from tomboyish little sister in the director's previous film, 8 Femmes, to seductive mermaid. I just wish the plot had lived up to the interesting interpersonal relationships and character development.

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