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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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Introduction: The Cinema of the Swimming Pool

The swimming pool on film has proven far more than merely a setting, instead providing a dynamic space in which a film’s central themes are played out. What is it about the pool that has so fascinated filmmakers, and what kinds of cinematic investigations does it encourage? Lynn Sherr explains the appeal of the space:

Pools glisten in the sun: they illuminate a dreary yard: they play with lines and light, as the wavy reflections of sun in water animate the straight walls. Shadows and shimmering patterns make endless new designs, always in motion, as the artist David Hockney brilliantly captured in swimming-pool paintings and collages that have redefined the colour blue. Pools are pure, a simple shape that traps nature’s force for our benefit. We think differently about water when it’s made accessible.1

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