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The Cinema of the Swimming Pool

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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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MATILDA MROZ

Extract



12 The Aesthetics of Overflow: Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia (1983) in Duration

In Andrei Tarkovsky’s penultimate film, Russian poet Andrei Gorchakov is set adrift in Italy, ostensibly researching the life of Pavel Sosnovsky, a Russian composer who had lived in Italy and had committed suicide upon his return to Russia.1 At the edge of the pool of St Catherine in the village of Bagno Vignoni, Andrei encounters Domenico; according to the village’s residents and the guests of the hotel, Domenico is a lunatic. Andrei is drawn to Domenico, however, perhaps recognizing that both men suffer from a failure of containment. Domenico locked up his family for seven years to await the end of the world, before his wife and children escaped, while Andrei’s visions of his family in the Russian countryside continually intrude onto his present, refusing to be contained within the space of the past. Andrei is suffering from a nearly debilitating nostalgia. Following the encounter of the two men, the identities of Andrei and Domenico begin to merge and overflow into one another, until Andrei takes it upon himself to complete Domenico’s ultimate errand: to save all of mankind by crossing the pool of St Catherine with a lit candle. While Andrei crosses the pool in a continuous long-take lasting just over nine minutes, at the end of which he collapses and dies, Domenico sets himself alight at a demonstration in Rome, becoming a human candle.

The pool in Bagno Vignoni is named...

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