Swimming Pool is the quintessential writer’s movie. It so perfectly depicts the workings of a writerly mind: how ideas are formed, how when you’re in the thick of things a story can usurp other aspects of daily life. This is another François Ozon movie, starring two of his favorite actors – Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier. Rampling is the writer, Sagnier is the muse.
It’s hard to talk about this one without getting spoilery so I’m putting the rest of this under a cut, though I promise to keep to mild spoilers and not give away the whole game.
Rampling’s character Sarah Morton writes mysteries featuring Dorwell the detective. She does amazingly well with them, but her enthusiasm seems to be waning. Her publisher – with whom she’s had an affair (though that also seems to be waning, at least on his part) offers his vacation home in France as a getaway to restart her creative engines. It works, but not in the manner either of them expected.
The publisher’s daughter, Julie (Sagnier) shows up and throws a wrench in the works, which really messes with the workings of Sarah’s mind in the most perfect way. Julie has a thing for rich food and unattractive men, though she’s a knockout with a great body. She rouses Sarah’s latent appetites. Previously content with Diet Coke and plain yogurt, she’s now eating profiteroles and flirting with the waiter at the local village café. She’s also gone down a different road with her writing, putting Dorwell on the shelf, as her publisher flippantly suggested, and focusing on Julie’s eccentric and somewhat secretive life. They end up as co-conspirators to cover up a murder.
Along the way we get clues to an underlying mystery. Why does Julie bring home such unappealing men? Why is it Julie’s fantasies mesh with Sarah’s? Why does Julie refer to the 30-something waiter as a ‘boy’ and how does it happen that Marcel, the publisher’s groundskeeper, has a daughter with progeria who dresses and behaves like an elder woman of the old country? A quirky meeting between her and Sarah is thrown in, which seems to be a complete non sequitur.
All is revealed at the end, when Sarah presents her finished – and published by a rival house – novel Swimming Pool to her old publisher. If you’re puzzled by the ending, and some are, remember Sarah’s profession and clarity will come.
Rampling is perfect as always. Sagnier is fearless, as always. Big love for this film.