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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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14 Gutta cavat lapidem: The Sonorous Politics of Lucrecia Martel’s Swimming Pools

You can just about hear it over the closing credits: the sound of the thermal pool that is the submerged centre of La niña santa [The Holy Girl] (2004), the second full-length feature from Argentinean filmmaker Lucrecia Martel. Part of the Latin American ‘buena onda,’ Martel is particularly concerned with the unseen, ‘disappeared’ and repressed as they float to the surface, a process both psychological and political that is represented literally through her use of swimming pools. Her films depict relations between the older bourgeoisie, complicit in the junta, and the emergent dispossessed generation post-junta and/or economic crisis. This is exemplified in La niña santa by hotel manager Helena, a former competitive diver, and her daughter, the titular holy girl Amalia. In the final scene, Amalia and her best friend Josefina swim out of the frame before the scene cuts to black, either erased by the adult forces they have set in motion, or escaping them; their voices and bodily movements persist tellingly on the soundtrack. Splashing, whispering, giggling, singing, the girls’ bodies are continuous with the water in the pool as it creates auditory distortions.

Throughout the film, this spa/ce, which is both within and without the hotel, provides a sonorous marker that disturbs and connects the central characters. Only at the end of the film is it seen – ‘revealed’, to borrow the film’s religious language – through the...

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