Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 2nd, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: France, May 18th, 2003
Director: François Ozon
Writers: François Ozon, Emmanuèle Bernheim
Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Ludivine Sagnier, Charles Dance, Jean-Marie Lamour
DVD Released: January 13th, 2004
Approximate Running Time: 103 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: DTS, Dolby Digital 5.1
DVD Release: Universal Studios
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.98
Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling), is a writer of crime fiction novels becomes fatigued and in need of creative inspiration. Her publisher (Charles Dance) suggests that she should take some time off and offers her his French villa as a sanctuary. Once there rest and relaxation spark her creative juices as she begins to write the latest Inspector Dorwell mystery. Everything changes when Julie (Ludivine Sagnier), her publishers daughter arrives unexpected. Julie is a sexually active girl who finds a new conquest each night and it doesn’t take long before her and Sarah’s personalities clash. Sarah eventually shifts from writing another Inspector Dorwell novel to using Julie as her latest inspiration. The two women grow closer as the film progresses and they start to resemble each other. Swimming Pool is filled with twists and turns and there is an ambiguity to the whole film that leaves the final analysis to the viewer’s interpretation.
Charlotte Rampling is no stranger to provocative cinema thirty years before she starred in Swimming Pool. She starred in Exploitation classic The Night Porter about a concentration camp survivor who reestablishes her sadomasochistic relationship with her Nazi Lover. François Ozon has been directing short and documentary films since the late 1980’s, besides Swimming Pool he is most known for directing 8 Women. Swimming pool is director François Ozon’s first English-language film. Ludivine Sagnier has worked with François Ozon on three films Water Drops on Burning Rocks, 8 Women and Swimming Pool.
Charlotte Rampling is very good as Sarah. She shows a range of emotions as she evolves from a conservative writer into nymph. Julie is played by Ludivine Sagnier who spends most of the film in a state of undress and Sagnier appears to be comfortable in a role most actresses would feel claustrophobic in. Sagnier holds her own against Rampling as they flawlessly complement each other. François Ozon’s direction is has few interesting shot mostly done through reflections like when Julie is laying next to the pool and we can see her and her reflections shape. Overall his direction is subdued and he lets this character driven drama carry itself through its writing and the performances. Philippe Rombi’s sparse score adds to tension and the overall mood of this haunting piece. François Ozon’s first English language film is beautifully crafted work that is sure to leave some viewers with unanswered questions and others wanting more.
Swimming Pool is presented in an Anamorphic 1:85:1 widescreen that preserves its original aspect ratio. The picture is sharp and detailed through out as the flesh tones appear natural. The colors are vibrant as most of the film takes place at the mansion and the black levels are solid as all the nighttime scenes are well-defined as very little grain is present. This DVD comes with three audio options English 5.1 surround, English DTS and French 5.1 surround. All three audio tracks capture the films subtle sound design and Ozon’s use of near silence is adds to the films tension. The English track has some dialog in French and the subtitles are asy to read and follow. Overall this is a very good DVD from Universal and my only complaint would be that there is some minor edge enhancement present in a few scenes.
While the region 2 DVD for Swimming Pool was loaded with extras like an audio commentary by director Francois Ozon and interviews with Rampling and Sagnier. This DVD has the films original trailer and about 12 minutes of deleted scenes. Too bad Universal skimmed on the extras for this DVD. There are two versions of Swimming Pool a R-rated and an unrated version which includes a explicit oral sex scene in the pool. This DVD also comes with forced trailers which I find annoying and they can only be skipped by fast forwarding through them. If you like character driven thrillers with lots flesh on display then I suggest you check out the Swimming Pool where things aren’t always what they appear to be on the surface.