Lynne Ramsay, director of Ratcatcher (1999), Morvern Callar (2002) and the elequently handled We Need To Talk about Kevin (2011), was specially commisioned to create a film as part of the Cultural Olympiad and she came up with this incredibly poetic and beautiful short, Swimmer (2012).
Told as a monochromic journey through britains waterways, Swimmer's screenplay is absent of the spoken word, yet the air is filled with a soundtrack consisiting of fragments of classic film dialogue and quintesentially British music which is utilized to convey the protagonist's thoughts.
Swimmer is an allegory of the creative process. Our hero trawls through thick black ink, his head & mind momentarilly disembodied in its reflection, a subtle nod to Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979). The strength of our idol is not in his physicality but in his imagination that is as wild as the feathered reeds protruding from the banks that represent surreal quills dipping their nibs into the creative flow.
The sporadically juxtaposed dry characters are figments of the swimmer's wild imagination. His jouney is meditative, the waters are full of twists and turns and reflect the infinite possibilities of the mind, each leading to adventures new. The soundtrack mirrors the thoughts of the swimmer...
"It's an imaginary country, where I go. It has it's own people..." Billy Liar (1963)
The rabbit child poses a threat as the swimmer conjours up an underwater attack, himself as the victim, a casualty of an overactive imagination, a collision of ideas, which then culminates into a moment of clarity followed by the characters re-birth.
The bridge and the menacing figure that lurks beneath represents the dark side the swimmer's artistry. In transferring the threat onto the viewer, Ramsay ensures you are left on edge, feeling the threat and questioning the motives of the lone figure. The swimmer realises his thoughts have taken a wrong turn and gradually segregates himself from the darkness with distortion in the water and a thrashing determination, through the pounding of the rain and the flickering of light, the darkness is erased.
As a naked figure wanders through the woods, the water/ink is transferred to the ground, a puddle is stepped through and in it, a reflection of a fairground a place of childhood fantasty and excitement. The swimmer proceeds with ferocity as the fairground slowly comes to life, his movements power the lights, the sounds and its existence. The story is coming together and as he floats, wide eyed to the surface at the centre of the lake, the moment of clarity is confirmed in his eye. the conception of creativity is complete. As he becomes fully consumed by the water, we are left in a moment of ethereal serenity as it fades to black. The symetry of the final scene conveys balance & tranquility, reward and result.
Ramsay's short is a study of the human mind, the powerstation that charges the imagination and fuels the physical journey. A route can be swam with the agility of the human body but mentally we all have an imagination that enables us to swim anywhere. Swimmer is not only a film, like the art itself, Swimmer is a state of mind.