Friday Films: The Wolfpack & The Swimmer

This week, Simona Businaro reviews 2015 documentary The Wolfpack – about six homebound brothers in New York – and an oldie: Frank Perry’s 1968 movie The Swimmer

The Wolfpack (2015, dir. Crystal Moselle)

The Wolfpack follows the unique and claustrophobic lives of six brothers who’ve been raised in seclusion in their Lower East Side apartment. Controlled and contained by their paranoid Peruvian father, Oscar, who looms over their lives, they are allowed to leave their home just a few times a year – one year not leaving at all.

To help ease the stifling boredom, the brothers have taken to re-creating famous scenes from films and they do so with absolute commitment and authenticity, meticulously writing out scripts of their favourites (Reservoir Dogs, Batman Begins) word for word.

Crystal Moselle watches from the sidelines as the brothers, all named after Hindu deities, passionately act out scenes complete with homemade props and costumes. With such fascinating and bizarre subjects, Moselle’s tentative and subtle interview style gets a little frustrating. This, along with clumsy direction, means we are left with lots of unanswered questions.

However, it does begin to make sense as a backdrop to the boys’ own clumsy and disorganised lives. Perhaps then, it works as the ideal platform for them to finally become empowered as the protagonists of their own stories, freeing them from their captive and stifling world.

The Swimmer (1968, dir. Frank Perry)

A commercial flop on its release, but later revered, ‘The Swimmer’ follows the charming, well-off and handsome advertising man Ned Merrill (Burt Lancaster).

Ned is visiting a friend when he notices the abundance of swimming pools in the gardens of his wealthy neighbours. He decides, as you would, to swim his way through them to get back to his own.

What follows is 95 minutes of Lancaster in tiny budgie smugglers swimming and meeting wealthy, beautiful Californians basking in their picturesque and sprawling ‘backyards’.

However, as you might have guessed, all is not as it seems beneath the beautiful exterior. The closer he gets to his home, the closer we get to the truth.

This film is intriguing from the start and keeps the viewer hooked. The juxtaposition of the simple narrative and the complex unravelling of Ned is excruciating, yet simultaneously compulsive.

The Swimmer is quietly haunting and disturbing as Ned appears to lose any sense of reality, power and sanity as the story unravels. The term ‘avant garde’ gets thrown about a lot, but this film feels truly before its time.

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