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The Cinema of the Swimming Pool


Edited By Christopher Brown and Pam Hirsch

The swimming pool frequently appears in film not merely as a setting but as a dynamic site where social, political, cultural and aesthetic forces converge. What is it about this space that has so fascinated filmmakers and what kinds of cinematic investigations does it encourage? This collection features essays by an eclectic, international range of film researchers. Amongst the works analysed are classics such as The Cameraman (1928), The Philadelphia Story (1940) and La Piscine (1969); cult hits such as The Swimmer (1968) and Deep End (1970); and more recent representations of the pool in Water Lilies (2007), Sea Point Days (2009) and Ausente (2011). The pool is considered as a realm where artifice meets nature, where public meets private, where sexualities morph and blend; and as a space that reconfigures the relationship between architecture and narrative, in which themes of pollution, spectacle and reflexivity find unique expression. Approaching the swimming pool from a wide range of methodological perspectives, the essays in this collection stake a claim for the enduring significance of this exciting cinematic space.
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4 From Stadium to Street: Generations and Gentrification in Berlin Pool Scenes

Generational Models

Contested, detested and admired, Leni Riefenstahl’s two ‘Olympia’ films not only shaped the image of Olympic coverage into the present day, but pioneered techniques new to film. The second of these pseudo-documentary films, Olympia: Fest der Schönheit (Olympia: Festival of Beauty, Germany, 1938), contains extensive swimming and diving footage shot during and after the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Undoubtedly one of the most significant pool scenes in film history, it can be read as both a predecessor and a point of contrast to two other Berlin pool scenes, both from feature films, Georg Tressler’s Die Halbstarken (Teenage Wolf Pack, West Germany, 1956) and Tom Tykwer’s Drei (Three, Germany, 2010). These films all feature real-life pools which survive intact to the present day, sites which reveal much about the city’s widely celebrated gentrification. The Olympic pool remains much as it was, a grand and ominous relic of the 1936 Games. The West Berlin pool in Teenage Wolf Pack is now a nightclub and exhibition space, while the floating, heated pool in Three abuts the former course of the Berlin Wall.

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