Deep End (Jerzy Skolimowski, 1970)

Polish director, scriptwriter, producer, actor, ex-boxer and all round tough guy Jerzy Skolimowski’s “Deep End”, made in 1970 and out of circulation for many years, gets a digital scrub and polish courtesy of the BFI. This curiously funny, surreal coming of age story( set in London but actually shot in Munich) has the director’s trademark skewed take on love and lust; this time set at the fag end of the Swinging 60s.

The story concerns 15 year old Mike (John Moulder-Brown), recently finished school, who gets his first job as an attendant at a local public baths. He is immediately taken with his sexy female co-worker Susan (Jane Asher), who is engaged to be married but is also seeing one of Mike’s old teachers, a lascivious swimming instructor played by Karl Michael Vogler. Susan takes Mike under her wing but also teases and flirts with him; while steering him in the direction of female clients who tip him handsomely for his attentions.

While Mike makes quite a splash with the female clientele at the baths, he only has eyes for Susan and so begins an infatuation that starts innocently enough, but soon has Mike practically stalking her every move. As his behaviour becomes more erratic, his desire for Susan becomes more unhinged and sets him on a destructive course, which has terrible consequences for them both.

“Deep End” is very much a film of its time, and some of its more louche moments now seem a tad cringe-inducing. The narrative has an almost jump-cut like quality; leaping all over the place while staying very much located in the story, but there are some notable scenes. One such features British actress and pin-up, Diana Dors, who plays a very under-sexed, but overheated client with a penchant for football. She makes Mike an unwilling accomplice to her infatuation in one of the film’s funniest scenes. What’s most compelling about the narrative is the way Skolimowski veers from Mike’s initial child-like infatuation with Susan to something altogether darker. Love is always a complicated emotion in Skolimowski’s films, and here Mike’s motives become ever more sinister, until the final denoument, when he “consummates” their relationship in his own off-kilter way.

Jane Asher is fantastic as the steamy, teasing Susan while Moulder-Brown is just right as Mike, the handsome young innocent. The film makes great use of music from Cat Stevens and newly invigorated soundtrack favourites Can, whose track Mother Sky, is a particular highlight.

 Regarded as something of  a “lost classic” (largely because its been so little seen since it was made) it certainly is worth seeing; especially for the final sequence set in the empty swimming pool, which culminates in a pitch-perfect ending.


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