The Swimmer
 
         
   
Genre: Drama
Running Time: 1 hr. 34 min.
Release Date: May 15th, 1968
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Frank Perry
Actors: Burt Lancaster, Janice Rule, Janet Landgard, Tony Bickley, Marge Champion
 
         
"Perhaps it’s not as important to know who Ned really is as it is to learn the meaning of his odyssey."
   
 
             
 
Theatrical
6/10
 
DVD
N/A
 
Blu-ray
N/A
 
             
 
 
“That doesn’t make much sense does it?” Burt Lancaster says to his ex-lover Shirley (Janice Rule). It’s a well-placed line that sums up the majority of the premise. A hopelessly confusing film that challenges viewers with deciphering conclusions of their own, The Swimmer provides plenty of character self-revelations and very few explanations. It’s a puzzling representation of a cloudy journey for a man who must discover his true self while the audience wonders about his origins and his downfall. Thought-provoking but equally frustrating, The Swimmer certainly isn’t for everyone.

Optimistic, cheerful Ned Merrill (Burt Lancaster) finds himself at the pool of a friend’s house and soon begins reminiscing about the glorious days of the past. Mysteriously drawn to the watery sapphire, Ned plots out a course back to his house by way of his neighbors’ pools, involving more hiking than actual swimming. He fondly names the river of pools “Lucinda” after his wife. Meeting numerous figures from his past along the way, he encounters benevolence, bewilderment, affection, companionship, and even hostility from his unwitting hosts as he steadily approaches his enigmatic destination where reality and fantasy blurs.

 
 
 

The Swimmer Movie - Burt Lancaster

The Swimmer Movie - Burt Lancaster

The Swimmer Movie - Burt Lancaster

 

The Swimmer Movie - Burt Lancaster

The Swimmer Movie - Burt Lancaster

The Swimmer Movie - Burt Lancaster

 
 
Based on the short story by John Cheever, the film takes its full running time to build up questions about the mysterious protagonist before delivering a shocking ending that may prove highly dissatisfactory for many. Like a less sinister Mulholland Drive for the 60’s, nothing is what it seems and solving the spellbinding mystery is a task that goes without much help from the narrative. Through extensive reminiscing, catching up with friends and foes, a preoccupation with the sky and an obsession with water, Ned recalls pieces of his past and fragments of memories lurking in his subconscious. His perception of himself differs from the people he encounters, gradually turning sourer until he’s left only with a shattering truth. His calm, confident and easygoing attitude slowly dwindles as the day dies down and his journey comes to a close.

A haunting theme melody by composer Marvin Hamlisch magnificently presides over the abundance of oddities, including a triumphant race against a horse, slow-motion hurdling, random flashbacks, a couple of unsettling nudists and an attention-starved boy. There are lots of conversations between a wide assortment of neighbors, none of which reveals enough about Ned to draw satisfactory conclusions, and doubtlessly aggravating for those who don’t want to wait the entire length of the movie to realize the answers must come from within themselves. Perhaps it’s not as important to know who Ned really is as it is to learn the meaning of his odyssey. It’s continually interesting but only truly entertaining to those who think they’ve got it all figured out.

- The Massie Twins

The Swimmer Burt Lancaster, Janice Rule, Janet Landgard, Tony Bickley, Marge Champion


 
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perfectgetaway

The answer is number 1.

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