Deep End (Skolimowski, 1970)

Jerzy Skolimowski, who also directed a favorite of mine, The Shout from 1978, made Deep End 8 years prior. This coming-of-age film of obsession and lust is really pretty (awesome art direction from Max Ott, Jr, and Tony Pratt). The opening credits give due to “The Can” on the soundtrack. And I was happy to hear that it was indeed the band Can, whose album Soundtracks I really love.

Skolimowski uses framing and color to really foreshadow an unexpected, but fully deserved ending. Here’s one of those moments that also shows off the gorgeously saturated color scheme.

Susan (Jane Asher; frame left) sits eating ice cream in the main hallway of the public pool where she’s employed. Opposite her and in the booth is the older cashier, played by Erica Booth.

The frame is overwhelmingly green. The cashier’s sweater blends right in with the walls, and the nearly-neon frame surrounding her window. She belongs to the set, Susan, who is carefree and young, doesn’t in her stark white and blue.

Gradually an unnamed painter comes into the background, moving right to left, and leaving huge red streaks on the back wall:

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The painter’s presence is obvious and intrusive. The color is blood red, throwing the basic harmony of the location totally out of whack and introducing danger into an otherwise mundane scene.

Here are some of Skolimowski’s other frames throughout the film. Mike (John Moulder-Brown) – also a pool employee, and obsessed with Susan – orders from a hotdog stand in a really comical (and Can-scored) sequence. Skolimowski often shoots him with his eyes obscured:

Screen shot 2015-07-11 at 3.33.27 AM Screen shot 2015-07-11 at 3.43.08 AM

The perceived violence of these neo-noirish shots – Mike is nearly decapitated by the camera position – telegraphs some of what’s to come.

In the same sequence, Mike has an unexpected visit with a bedridden prostitute:

Screen shot 2015-07-11 at 3.38.43 AM

Lush color scheme aside, it’s frames like this one-

Screen shot 2015-07-11 at 3.40.06 AM

-that are really important. What a strange close-up! It’s a “real” leg, a leg in a cast, and the leg of a cardboard cutout all intermingling. There’s something so false about the potential sex here. Something so put on. And, like this shot-

Screen shot 2015-07-11 at 3.44.24 AM

-there’s something dangerous about it all. Skolimowski rarely resorts to traditionally voyeuristic shots (like this one-

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-) in the film. Instead he prefers to get the mood he’s after out of a penchant for the unreal. The bedridden prostitute, the cardboard cutout that may or may not be of Susan placed in precarious positions, Mike’s eyes invisible behind the hotdog vendors stand: all of these thwart both our expectations (that’s going to be some tricky sex in the first case), and place an emphasis on the slightly off-kilter.

Skolimowski’s also get a sense of the hyperbolic in Deep End, coming to a head in the climactic scene, a gorgeous mixture of sex and violence at the bottom of a pool that he shoots heroically and transcendentally:

Screen shot 2015-07-11 at 4.12.58 AM

It’s techniques like this that elevate Deep End above other like-minded narratives.


About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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2 Responses to Deep End (Skolimowski, 1970)

  1. Lory Ghertner says:

    Only one comment. Where do I find this little gem? This looks like German expressionism in color. Lory

  2. Pingback: Best Films of 2015 | dcpfilm

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