THE SWIMMER (1968)
I have watched The Swimmer several times over the past several years and it produces a powerful emotional impact for me each time I watch it. As a psychologist, I find that I can watch it from two different points of view, each equally powerful.

The first is from the point of view of an outside observer watching the events unfold. The lead character initially appears perhaps a little eccentric but not totally out of touch with reality. Early on in the movie the foreshadowing begins and it becomes more and more clear that all is not well with the psyche of this individual. However, the full depth of the problem is not evident; perhaps just something along the lines of a midlife crises. Nothing prepares the viewer for the final scenes in which it becomes openly apparent that this is an individual who has suffered a major nervous breakdown and lost contact with reality.

A second way to view this movie is from the point of view of the main character. This is a person who has suffered a devastating loss of some sort (death of a child? divorce?). The person is deep asleep dreaming at the beginning of the movie, and throughout the movie is gradually waking up. As consciousness begins to return, the dreamlike images about a wished for state of affairs begin to be intruded upon by glimpses of reality. These are small and brief at first, but gradually become more powerful as the person wakes up. From this point of view, the final scene can be interpreted as the moment of awakening when the horrific reality of the daytime hours once again takes over the psyche.
I gave this movie a rating of 5 stars.

Ron Boothe

psyrgb@emory.edu