This post, marking the start of 2015, was originally titled, ‘Of Skinny Dipping in Scandinavia and Coming of Age in Mexico.’ It was partly inspired by a rain drenched dip in the waters of the Aquatic Complex, a Govt-owned public swimming facility, located in Velachery, Chennai. I was warned by well-meaning friends, and near and dear ones to stay off the pool during the rains, what with all the viruses and the chill factor. But like a junkie in search of his next fix, the pool has become a sanctuary of sorts that I seek on a daily basis.
Boasting rights aside, there’s an immense feel-good factor and head rush that accompanies these daily morning swimming sessions. And in the backdrop of Monday’s incessant rains that had dropped the temperature of the water by a couple of notches, something as ordinary as A Dip in the Pool (which happens to be the title of a Roald Dahl short story that I cannot quite remember), gets transformed into the muse for yet another cinematic aside.
It all starts with the title of this blog post – a shout-out to the 2012 Mads Mikkelsen thriller The Hunt (Jagten), a wonderful whodunit, directed by Thomas Vinterberg. The film opens with a joyful sequence of about a dozen middle-aged men, stripped to their birthday suits, indulging themselves with a bone-chilling dip in the icy waters of a lake in a Danish town. And it comes across as the act of skinny dipping and swimming in subzero temperatures during winter, is a ritual of sorts among men in European countries. Our protagonist, played by Mikkelsen, is part of that gang.
Over the course of the film, the town bears witness to a devastating accusation of a crime levelled against Mikkelsen’s character that changes his life forever. The nature of the accusation and the ambiguity of Mikkelsen’s innocence is the top draw of this must-watch European arthouse offering.
Speaking of the arthouse scene, François Ozon, a brilliantly astute director of French films, takes the metaphor of still waters and enmeshes it with questions of identity and creative liberties in his 2003 film Swimming Pool . It features fearless performances from veteran actress Charlotte Rampling and ingénue Ludivine Sagnier as a Lolita-esque temptress, who draws Rampling’s character, that of a bestselling novelist into a web of murder and complicity. The ‘meta’ title refers to the film’s centre of action, a swimming pool dotting a quaint villa in a French village, whose tranquillity offsets the foreboding undercurrents of the plot.
Vulnerable and manipulative by turns, the true identity of Sagnier’s enigmatic character is kept hidden from the viewer till the very end. You can trust me on this –the big reveal is a payoff worthy of a true aficionado’s patience.
Jumping across time and space, the next film on our list is by one of Mexican New Wave’s brightest stars. Before he sent superstars spiralling out of the Earth’s orbit, in what might be arguably the greatest and most immersive, sci-fi space-disaster flick of all time, Gravity, Alfonso Cuaron directed a timeless coming of age tale. His Y Tu Mama Tambien is a road movie that gleefully raises a finger to authority of any and every kind, takes life by the proverbial horns and imparts a few lessons on love, loss and everything in between. The recipe: throw in two testosterone-fuelled young boys, Tenoch and Julio (just out of school, ready for college), add a sultry older woman, Luisa, stir them up with some passion and send them off on a road trip across the breadth of Mexico in search of a beach, cunningly named Heaven’s Mouth.
Lauded for its no-holds barred exploration of love and sexuality, while intertwining its layered narrative with politics and social commentary, Y Tu Mama Tambien is a one of a kind film, it makes you laugh till it hurts, and leaves you hurting, and wanting, at the end of it all. There are moments aplenty, filled to the brim with mirth, biting observational wit and just plain humanity, not to mention – downright hilarity, occasionally told through the lens of a non-judgmental narrator, a sort of omniscient audience.
Having excitedly initiated a colleague into this film, and having gotten a ‘two thumbs up’ from her, I look forward to 2015 with a sense of hope, of plunging into as many pools as I can and into as many wonderful films as I can. To sum up, I’d like to recall the words of Luisa in Y Tu.., “Life is like the surf, so give your self away like the sea.” And, you have a splash in 2015.