Deep End (1970)
“If you can’t have the real thing– you do all kinds of unreal things.”
Deep End (1970)
Director: Jerzy Skolimowski
Cast: Jane Asher, John Moulder-Brown, Karl Michael Vogler
Synopsis: Mike, a 15-year-old bathhouse worker, develops a crush on his older, attractive co-worker, Susan.
Deep End explores the destructive powers of an obsessive infatuation a 15-year-old school-leaver (John Moulder-Brown – Half a Sixpence) has for the cute older girl (Jane Asher – The Quatermass Xperiment) with whom he works at the local swimming baths. It accurately depicts the intense desires and frustrations an adolescent can suffer for the subject of their infatuation long after interaction with that person means the initial illusion of perfection has been exposed as false. In fact, young Mike’s obsession grows even deeper as Susan’s own character flaws become apparent, so that it’s the image of beauty that is important (as evidenced by the cardboard cut-out) and not the real person inside.
While it’s a well-crafted film, Deep End isn’t particularly pleasant to watch. Nobody in the film is likable. Young Mike is initially OK, but the darker side to his seemingly naïve nature becomes increasingly apparent as the story heads towards its tragic conclusion. Susan, also a seemingly pleasant girl at first, is a character whose gorgeous features disguise a morally ambiguous tease who secretly enjoys Mike’s infatuation for her, and even encourages it in subtle ways. Other, minor, characters are equally unpleasant – the near-paedophile school teacher, the clientèle at the baths, Susan’s fiancé, etc.
Deep End is at least to be commended for an ending that avoids genre stereotypes – if, in fact, the film can be said to belong to any typical genre. But a foreshadowing of doom hangs over the entire thing, and you’re left with something like a sour taste in your mouth when the final credits roll.
(Reviewed 9th March 2012)