One of the signature films of France’s Francois Ozon, who’s turned in
a sexy and absorbing psychological chiller.
Francois Ozon is known for dark and oft-bizarre films
like SEE THE SEA (1997), SITCOM (1998) and 8 WOMEN (2002), which tend to
feature strong female casts. 2002’s SWIMMING POOL followed Ozon’s UNDER
THE SAND (2000), which starred British actress Charlotte Rampling in a
subtle and perverse account of madness. SWIMMING POOL, which reteamed
Ozon and Rampling, is similarly themed, and was an unexpected arthouse
hit during its summer ‘03 U.S. release.
Sarah Morton is a successful mystery novelist who’s
growing tired of her profession. Her publisher allows her the use of his
secluded country home, dominated by an imposing swimming pool, in the
hope that she’ll work up some inspiration. But this apparent summer
retreat is ruined by the unexpected arrival of Julie, a young woman
claiming to be Sarah’s publisher’s daughter.
Sarah initially finds Julie, with her incessant
flirtiness and never-ending succession of fuck-mates, an irritant.
Gradually, though, Sarah becomes intrigued--and aroused--by Julie, and
begins writing a novel about her. Julie for her part grows to appreciate
Sarah’s presence in the house, seeing in her the maternal presence
lacking in Julie’s life.
A note of tension enters the relationship one night
when Franck, Julie’s latest mate, evinces affections for Sarah. The
following morning Franck is nowhere to be found.
Sarah comes to suspect that Julie has killed Franck and
hidden his body. Her suspicions would appear to be confirmed by Julie’s
increasingly erratic behavior, which includes fainting spells and
mistaking Sarah for her deceased mother. Julie eventually admits that
she did indeed kill Franck after an argument, and stashed his body in
the pool house. Sarah assists Julie in burying the body in the yard
beyond the pool, which brings up a new problem when an immigrant
gardener begins snooping around the area…
To call this movie a masterpiece, as many critics did
during its initial release, is a bit of a stretch, but it is
impressively subtle, precise and chilling--even though most of it takes
place in a sunny clime. It may be the finest daylight horror movie since
LET’S SCARE JESSICA
TO DEATH. Francois Ozon’s narrative is quite simple for the
most part, but with a sun-baked atmosphere of destructive sensuality
that never fails to compel, and grows increasingly prevalent as the film
approaches the concluding twist that puts it firmly in psychological
Regarding that twist, I’m honestly not too sure it
heralds anything too profound, seeing as how the film works fine without
it. Seemingly every horror-suspense movie of the early ‘00s had to have
a reality-tweaking twist (see THE OTHERS, FEMME FATALE, FRAILTY, THE
VILLAGE, etc), and SWIMMING POOL follows suit.
It’s best to concentrate on Ozon’s skilled filmmaking
and the expert performances of Charlotte Rampling and Ludvine Sagnier,
who here emerges as one of the absolute sexiest cinematic presences of
Director: Francois Ozon
Producers: Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier
Screenplay: Francois Ozon, Emmanuele Bernheim
Cinematography: Yorick Le Saux
Editing: Monica Coleman
Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Ludvine Sagnier, Charles Dance, Marc Fayolle,
Jean-Marie Lamour, Mireille Mosse, Michael Fau, Jean-Claude Lecas