In The Pool, seasoned director Doris Dorrie creates a very entertaining and contemporary movie, using comedy to examine the We-They dichotomising that is a pervasive and growing issue in Western cultures, in terms of racial and gender stereotyping in particular.
The movie opens with an idyllic-looking Summer’s day by an outdoor women-only pool, somewhere in Germany, with shots of seemingly unselfconscious swimmers and sunbathers enjoying the sunny day, the holiday feeling enhanced for the viewer by the upbeat music.
It soon becomes apparent that tensions exist among the clientele, initially with locals Eva and Gabi who loudly object to the rule-breaking behaviour of a group of Turkish immigrants. However, we see that even among this group of women, different opinions exist on what is acceptable in terms of behaviour and dress, with a divorcee among them wearing a swimsuit while objecting to her daughter’s deliberate choice of a burkini. Meanwhile, Eva’s topless protest against the burkini, which she considers an example of female oppression, seems misguided and sad.
Further layers of stereotyping are added when a group of fully-veiled and wealthy women turn up at the pool. From here, the comedy becomes farcical at times, but in a good way. When the pool is eventually forced to close because the lifeguard resigns, unable to keep order, we see how lost the clientele and owners are without it. Their prejudices, fears and disagreements have essentially caused them to shoot themselves in the foot, as it were. Recovering from this unwanted scenario takes an interesting route.
The movie cleverly uses a communal setting, the pool, where all women are welcome and rules apply to everybody, even if loosely applied at times. Side by side comparisons of various cultures and differences in what is meant to be an egalitarian space, and the use of comedy and farce to highlight and ridicule prejudices, allow a safe setting to consider these issues, and give much to think about afterwards.
- DATE: April 28, 2023
- WRITERS: Doris Dörrie, Madeleine Fricke, Karin Kaci
- DIRECTOR: Doris Dörrie
- STARRING: Emily Hampshire, Jonas Chernick, Gray Powell
The Pool, a film by German writer/director Doris Dorrie, a 10-feature veteran, is a primary candy coloured world, set in a women-only pool, with the odd male. There’s a touch of frothy farce to this film, populated by slightly unlikeable people, representing different strata of German society, but not so much you hate them. However, this satire does have strong elements of social commentary about tolerance.
Pool regulars include an ageing German pop star, Eva (Andrea Sawatzki), famous for a song about ‘Freedom’ – a theme running through the film – what does freedom mean for different women, and her designer-label obsessed friend, Gabi (Maria Happel), and multi-generational Turks including Yasemine (Nilam Farooq) clashing with her mother and grandmother about her right to wear a black bicycle tube burkini, There are fat, thin, muscular, young and older women of all shapes and sizes, some dissatisfied with their bodies, who all come together but shift alliances and culture clash.
Sparks fly, firstly, with the arrival of wealthy Syrians in abayas and hijabs, especially when one wears a beautiful, colourful designer-label burkini, and secondly a new male lifeguard.
This ensemble works well in this comedy ripe full of prejudices played out by black, white and brown swimmers, who all have their own mindsets and only give way very reluctantly. I wondered though if it was too much of a fantasy that an obvious trans woman would be accepted in this diverse world without question at all by everyone.
I enjoyed this film. It deals with serious issues in a light hearted way and swipes at those who are too fanatical.
The story is set around a female only swimming pool in Germany. The main performers, two ladies around 60 years of age who are regular attenders. One is a singer, once a No1, who has given up performing (why is revealed later) and now financially stressed. The other is a well-off widowed teacher, facing retirement. Although wishing to be seen as liberal she is really snobbish and intolerant.
The presence of a German/Turkish family with inter-generational problems that doesn`t adhere to the rules creates friction and one of them causes the pool to be temporarily closed.
Further tensions arise when a group of fully veiled rich Syrian ladies arrive. They claim to be refugees from Switzerland where they are not allowed to dress as they wish.
Add to this: Lesbians, Fitness and health fanatics, language misinterpretations and police raids.
The result is very entertaining and fast moving.
The friends fall out, realise how much they depend on each other and make up. Happily ending with a surprise, one realises was flagged at the very beginning.
At my advanced age I felt a return to British comedy of the 1960s/70s. With lots of scantily clad females, the occasional bare bosom, sexual innuendo and scatological comedy it could have been called “Carry on up the Hijab” with Hattie Jaques and Barbra Windsor in the main parts.