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SWIMMING POOL (2003) and UNDER THE SAND (2002) DVD foreign film musings by SEBASTIAN

Posted on April 3rd, 2009
Posted on April 3rd, 2009


“Swimming Pool” and “Under the Sand” were both helmed by the same director: Francois Ozon. There are subtle tones and themes that run through both films. He hits all the right notes that a filmmaker should when making a compelling drama. He finds, in both films, an extremely capable actress in Charlotte Rampling. As studies in character, her performances fuel both films.

In the first film “Swimming Pool”, Rampling plays a successful writer in London who has hit a bit of a slump with her creativity. Her publisher (Charles Dance in a brief, but no less substantial role) suggests that she take a break at his vacation home in France. She accepts, and at first finds the calm and beauty of the place to be extremely restorative, and she begins writing again. But soon her world is disrupted by the appearance of her publisher’s wild, promiscuous daughter. Soon they both enter into a tricky psychological relationship with each other.

In “Under the Sand”, Rampling portrays a happily married woman whose husband disappears one day without a trace. The authorities are baffled and so is she. Life moves forward, but she longs for her husband and still cannot accept what is happening to her life.

Besides featuring Rampling in stunning performances that any sane actresses would beg for, the films are also both meta-fictional and explore one character’s internal worlds. The strength of these films is that these worlds are so rich and compelling. The director has the uncanny ability to put us inside the character without using extraneous exposition to do it, both rather extraordinary acting. Rampling is simply one of the greatest actresses of hers or any generation. Looking at how she must have approached this material, it’s astounding the level of depth she is able to reach. Truly a feat.

Both films are recommended to fans of psychological drama and great acting. If you really like your films to be capped with a definitive ending, then look somewhere else. Both films are open-ended, but they will make you think long after the credits roll.

There’s also a great feeling of texture and composition in the way the films are photographed. This director has some very compelling things to say with these films. Loss and confusion echo throughout the stories. But don’t come at these films from a plot standpoint. The “Swimming Pool” may reward more in the area of twists and turns, but “Under the Sand” is not a film about story; it’s about the life that exists behind or “under” what we normally understand about a person.

If you’re looking for something different this two films won’t disappoint. I should mention that most of “Under the Sand” is in French, in case you don’t like reading subtitles during a movie.

Trailers below. First for “Swimming Pool”…

Now “Under the Sand”…

-Sebastian

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