Based on the film of the same name by Jacques DeRay in 1969, La Piscina is on the simplest level, a story about a woman trying to escape. On the surface “Ali” (Carrie Amstutz) is beautiful, fun loving and artistically talented. A darkness lives within her however, her emotions unpredictable and complex. The effort required for her to enjoy romance or the company of others is too much… and at odds with how others perceive her. Her soul is tired. Tired of pretending, she simply exists, depending on drugs to escape or in brief moments of lucidity, jumping into the cooling waters of the swimming pool – like a newborn trying to re-enter the womb.
Her boyfriend of the moment “Johnny” (Isaak Gracia), a fun loving lothario, offers charm and a sympathetic ear but nothing else. He is warm and well meaning though opportunistic. She is cold and calculating and will never let him close to her – choosing a superficial and physical exchange that will always run its course. She understands that her escape comes at a price, and while she puts up with him, at least for a period of time, ultimately, she uses his joie de vivre to mask her consistent need to be numb and stem her anguish.
The final outcome is of little interest to the protagonist. Seemingly pre-determined, it is pointless to try and control. Her deliverance is through her step sister “Aggie” (Tiara Cosme Ruiz), a younger and more conventional person, though naive in the ways of people. She shuns frivolity but envies her older sister and the attention poured on her by men. In tow is her friend “Isaac” (Mikael Mattsson). She keeps him around but pays him little attention as he secretly pines for her, knowing that she can never love him.
Although this film documents a simple love exchange, from beginning to end, we are witnessing a probing study of the human psyche. We all come into this world with a different compass, and we navigate the best we can. In essence both men in the film serve as placeholders, while the sisters seek and abandon true meaning respectively. The protagonist’s fate reflects each individual’s own private thoughts about real and/or imagined destiny. The climax of the film – a simple sequence showing that happiness is fleeting and always has a price, is truly a synthesis of the movie and a tribute to the director’s art.
Credits / Collaborators / Cast
Cinematography: Pablo Morris
Sound: Otis Bowers
Director: Justin Clowes
Carrie Amstutz – Ali
Isaak Gracia – Johnny
Mikael Mattsson – Isaac
Tiara Cosme Ruiz – Aggie
Mark Laursen – The Townie
The story behind the film
The film was written on a whim after watching the original and with a particular actor in mind who promptly moved to New York City. The script was shelved for a couple of years, but after discovering the location in Borrego Springs by chance, dusted off and revamped.
Casting came together quickly but then the lead (Ali) had a schedule conflict and dropped out less than six weeks before shooting. The fire drill was on!
The location was secured and shooting took place over 10 days as crew and cast took over a local motel in town. Weather and wind was an ongoing problem forcing the shooting schedule to be juggled and for the film to be filmed in reverse. A camaraderie between cast and crew developed and everyone pitched in helping with different aspects of the production. As filming reached the halfway mark the initial enthusiasm and adrenaline wore off but the professionalism and dedication of all involved shone through and the filming was completed.