The Swimmer encapsulates a day in Ned Merrill’s life (superb: Burt Lancaster) who encounters old friends as he is on a heroic mission to “swim” home.
It all starts off with dream like images of natural surroundings drowned in nostalgic sunlight until the sequence is harshly interrupted with Ned jumping into a swimming pool. He sort of creeped up from behind, coming out of the forest in his speedos with a surprise jump into an old friend’s pool who is lounging next to it, nursing his hangover. Ned then has a brilliant idea: Why not pester all the other wealthy people I once used to know and jump into their pools as I’m on the way to my house? “I can swim home” he dreamily explains…..”Well don’t you see? I got it all figured out!” His words seem from a different time and place he wishes to return to. His idea to “swim home” baffles any other level-headed adult in this film, whereas Ned seems to think if he can impress someone with this silly undertaking he can still be part of the society somehow.
Now why this strange self inflicted mission of swimming home? Did he once live the high life and is now on the path of crucifixion on his way back home? Is he trying to wash away his sins? Swimming towards resurrection? Is it a test to see if the old charm still works? And where the hell did he come from? All those questions come up as I watch him smooth talking his way through other people’s property. After all, he is still a classic stud. With pool blue eyes, tanned, toned and flirty: ”Are you….I mean….are you married?” Is he looking for a wife perhaps? We don’t know the full extent of what is really the case.
As Ned hops from pool to pool, we hear that he is broke, abandoned by his wife and kids, has not seen those people in a long time and as an ex lover puts it, he is nothing but a “common suburban stud”…or is he really?
A movie that streams like a river seamlessly from dream to truth, decency and immorality, all blending into one. An unapologetic, harsh script is contrasting dreamlike, hazy images, which appear like a world he likes to find himself in but it all gets brutally interrupted when he has to face facts.
The Swimmer dives deep into a world created by false beliefs as we watch a failed seducer playing his last card. In the age of manufactured lives inside picture-perfect social media, The Swimmer is a clever character study and still relevant, probably now more than ever.
Production credit on imdb