Edited By Christopher Brown and Pam Hirsch
FERNANDO GABRIEL PAGNONI BERNS
17 Cartographies of Desire: Swimming Pools and the Queer Gaze
I have chosen to analyse four films featuring swimming pools which interrogate popular notions of masculinity associated with machismo.1 Two of these films, Ausente (Marco Berger 2011) and Tensión Sexual, Volume 1: Volátil (Marco Berger and Marcelo Monaco, 2012), are from Argentina; O fantasma (João Pedro Rodrigues 2000) is from Portugal; and Do Começo ao Fim (Aluizio Abranches 2009) is from Brazil.
In these films, the sensuous gaze that some characters cast upon male bodies equals that of the camera’s eye, initiating a form of cinematic cartography in which the topography that composes the male body is delicately detailed, creating a ‘map’ that shows the areas which in much mainstream cinema are obscured. Viewers are so accustomed to the silhouettes, curves and bulges of the male body being avoided in favour of a gaze which objectifies the female body that they do not even notice gaps in the map. An exploration of each part of the female body, a full cartography, is privileged in much mainstream mise-en-scène, which simultaneously naturalizes the absence of a sensitive and eroticized exploration of the male body. Queer cinema, by contrast, erodes the idea of an essence of things to demonstrate that popular conceptions of ‘the natural’ are social and cultural constructions.
Swimming pools are one of the few places where this cartography of desire for the male form can be displayed...