Swimming Pool is a 2003 erotic thriller film directed by François Ozon and starring Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier. The plot focuses on a British crime novelist, Sarah Morton, who travels to her publisher's upmarket summer house in Southern France to seek solitude in order to work on her next book. However, the arrival of Julie, who claims to be the publisher's daughter, induces complications and a subsequent crime. While the film's protagonist is British and both of the lead characters are bilingual, the majority of the story takes place in France – thus, the dialogue throughout the film is a mixture of French and English.
|Directed by||François Ozon|
|Written by||François Ozon|
|Cinematography||Yorick Le Saux|
|Edited by||Monica Coleman|
|Music by||Philippe Rombi|
|Distributed by||Mars Distribution (France)|
UGC Films (United Kingdom)
|Box office||$22.4 million|
Swimming Pool premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on 18 May 2003, and was released theatrically in France three days later, with a U cinema rating, meaning it was deemed suitable for all ages. It was given a limited release in the United States that July, and was edited in order to avoid an NC-17 rating due to its sexual content and nudity. It was subsequently released in North America on DVD in an unrated cut.
The film ignited controversy with audiences because of its ambiguous nature and unclear conclusion which can be interpreted and argued in various ways – while in France many comparisons were made with Jacques Deray's 1969 film La Piscine (The Swimming Pool), starring Romy Schneider and Alain Delon.
Sarah Morton, a middle-aged English mystery author, who has written a successful series of detective novels, is having writer's block that is impeding her next book. Sarah's publisher, John Bosload, offers her his country house near Lacoste, France, for some rest and relaxation. Sarah takes him up on the offer, hinting that she hopes John may come and visit as well. After becoming comfortable with the run of the spacious, sun-filled house, and meeting the groundskeeper Marcel, Sarah's quietude is disrupted by a young woman claiming to be the publisher's daughter, Julie. She shows up late one night explaining that she is taking time off from work herself. She eventually tells Sarah that her mother used to be Bosload's mistress, but that he would not leave his family.
Julie's sex life consists of one-night stands with various oafish men, and a competition of personalities develops between the two women. At first, Sarah regards Julie as a distraction from her writing. She uses earplugs to allow her to sleep during Julie's noisy nighttime adventures, although she nonetheless has a voyeuristic fascination with them. Later, she abandons the earplugs during one of Julie's trysts, beginning to envy Julie's lifestyle. Sarah sneaks into Julie's room and steals her diary, using it in the new novel she is working on. The competition comes to the fore when a local waiter, Franck, is involved. Julie wants him but he appears to prefer the more mature Sarah, having struck up a relationship with her during her frequent lunches at the bistro.
An unexpected tragedy occurs after a night of flirting among the three. After swimming together in the pool, Franck refuses to allow Julie to continue performing oral sex on him, once Sarah, who watches them from the balcony, throws a rock into the water. Franck feels frightened and tells Julie he is leaving. The next day, Franck is missing. While investigating Franck's disappearance, Sarah learns that Julie's mother died years earlier, though Julie had spoken of her mother as if she were alive. She returns to the villa, where a confused Julie thinks that Sarah is her mother and has a breakdown. Julie eventually recovers and confesses that Franck is dead because she repeatedly hit him over the head with a rock as he tried to leave her at the pool. His body is in one of the sheds.
When Marcel becomes suspicious of the mound of fresh soil where Sarah and Julie have buried Franck's body, Sarah seduces the elderly gardener to distract him. Julie leaves, thanking Sarah for her help and leaving her the manuscript of an unpublished novel written by her late mother, which she had previously claimed that John made her mother burn. Sarah uses the mother's manuscript in her novel-in-progress.
Sarah returns to England and visits John at his publishing office with her new novel. His daughter, Julia, also shows up just as Sarah is leaving, but is revealed to be a completely different person than the girl Julie that the viewer was introduced to as John's daughter.
- Charlotte Rampling as Sarah Morton
- Ludivine Sagnier as Julie
- Charles Dance as John Bosload
- Jean-Marie Lamour as Franck
- Marc Fayolle as Marcel
- Mireille Mossé as Marcel's daughter
- Lauren Farrow as Julia
- Sebastian Harcombe as Terry Long
- Frances Cuka as Lady on the Underground
- Michel Fau as The First Man
- Émilie Gavois-Kahn as Waitress at Cafe
The intentionally ambiguous ending sparked much confusion and controversy with audiences. One suspicion is that Sarah had been alone at the villa for the entire time. Ostensibly this would mean that the character of Julie is a total fiction conjured by Sarah for the purpose of her new book – also titled Swimming Pool – which she presents defiantly to Bosload at the end of the film. Ozon himself has stated:
Charlotte's character kept mixing fantasy and reality. Although in Swimming Pool, everything related to fantasy is part of the act of creation, so it is more channeled and less likely to end up causing madness. In terms of directing, I've treated everything that is imaginary in Swimming Pool in a realistic way so that you see it all – fantasy and reality alike – on the same plane.
Swimming Pool grossed $10,130,108 in the United States and $12,311,215 internationally for a worldwide total of $22,441,323. It had a budget of €6.1 million (approximately US$7.8 million), meaning that it was a financial success.
The film was well received and earned an 84% "freshness" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with most critics' praise centering on the two leads. On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 56 out of a 100 based on 37 critics, indicating "generally favourable reviews".
Roger Ebert gave the film a positive review and stated that "François Ozon, the director and co-writer (with Emmanuèle Bernheim), understands as Hitchcock did the small steps by which a wrong decision grows in its wrongness into a terrifying paranoid nightmare".
Neil Smith of the BBC also praised the film, calling it a "compelling psychological melodrama" and "Hitchcockian thriller." Sarmad Iqbal of the International Policy Digest said this about the film "The film's intriguing yet mystifying mix of erotica and thriller set in a part of France that is a far cry from bustling Paris makes you fall in love with it. It is not just the plot, the setting and the way actors have immaculately performed their roles will make you shower praise on this film but also for the soundtrack by Philippe Rombi".
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- "Swimming Pool (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
- "Swimming Pool (2003)". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
- Ebert, Roger (2 July 2003). "Swimming Pool". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
- Smith, Neil (25 July 2003). "BBC Film Reviews: Swimming Pool". BBC. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
- Iqbal, Sarmad (4 April 2020). "Seven Binge Worthy French Films to Get You Through Self-Isolation". Archived from the original on 23 April 2020. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
- Macdonald, Moira (11 July 2003). "'Swimming Pool' seduces with a dip into surprising, erotic waters". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
- Rooney, David (18 March 2003). "Swimming Pool". Variety.
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