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|Index||104 reviews in total|
78 out of 83 people found the following review useful:
Come on in, the waters lovely!, 28 May 2005
Author: Graham Watson from Gibraltar
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the opening scene of the movie a man is seen scampering towards a
swimming pool on a beautiful summers day, he dives into the pool, swims
a couple of lengths only then to be greeted with a drink at the side of
the pool. It is clear from the outset that although he knows the
people, he has not seen them for a while. Don and Helen are surprised
but genuinely pleased to see their guest and before long they are
joined by another couple the Forsbergs who he also knows from his past,
they too are overjoyed at this unscheduled reunion.
We are introduced to Ned Merrill a fit looking middle-aged man who comes across as friendly, likable, perhaps boastful but certainly easygoing. However, he becomes distracted when told of a neighbor the Grahams who have just installed a brand new swimming pool. To the perplexed group Ned announces that he plans to swim home via his neighbours pools. "This is the day Ned Merril swims across the county", he promptly swims a length leaps out of the pool and then jogs away.
At the Grahams he is also welcomed with enthusiasm particularly from Mrs. Graham, and at this stage we also learn that Ned Merrill is a popular ladies man as he easily flirts with all the womenfolk he meets. However, at the third house the mother of an old friend confronts him as he leaves the pool, she is hostile to him and instructs him never to come around again. This is in sharp contrast to the previous people he encountered and the viewer is left as confused as Ned seems to be.
At the fourth pool things return to normal, Ned meets a young woman who used to baby-sit his children when they were younger. To the astonishment of her sister and brother she thinks his idea of swimming to his home via neighbours pools is fascinating and offers to join him. They both make their way through the tranquil countryside joking and talking about the old days with out a care in the world. The girl Julie a happy go lucky 20 year old who seems at ease with Ned and informs him that when she was younger she had a crush on him.
After another friendly encounter at another home full of party-goers who are also pleased to see him, it now becomes clear that Ned was fired from a high flying executive position. Despite trying to put forward a positive persona and ducking awkward questions from the guests he swiftly leaves with Julie.
By this time Ned has become fixated by Julie and decides to sit down for a while after spraining his ankle while jumping a fence. He is overcome by her beauty and tells her of his true feelings. Julie is shocked and grossed out at this man trying to take advantage of her and decides to bolt and runs back the way she came leaving a stunned and pitiful looking Ned alone by himself. Gone is the beaming complexion and the confident posture for it to be replaced by an edgy and confused look as well as a hunched demeanor. The fit middle-aged man, charming and energetic at the beginning starts to look weak and pathetic as he limps a lonely walk to his next pool.
From this point on things get worse for Ned Merrill and it seems the nearer he gets to his home the greater the hostility from folks. They all know him but do not want to associate with him. The viewer also begins to feel uncomfortable about Ned,however, this is tempered only by the dislike for the people he meets on his way. At best they are pompous, loud, arrogant, shallow and at worse self-centered, smug and cruel.
The ending of the swimmer is quite shocking, Ned's American dream is in reality a nightmare, and you are left with an empty feeling. Now you know where he has been all along and why his neighbours have not seen him for a while. It is obvious from the first two houses that he is hiding something and this is confounded by some of the confused expressions on the faces of Ned's old friends; they know something that the viewer doesn't. You are not sure if Ned Merrill is just simply embarrassed and is trying to put on brave face by acting as if things are normal, or else has suffered some form of mental breakdown due to his life imploding on him. At first you believe the former but as the film progresses you begin to see signs of his delusion, confusion and irritability, that quickly points to the latter.
For example, having trouble with his memory and his unwillingness or inability to comprehend the reality of his misfortunes. It would also explain his misreading of Julie's desire to be with him; it was not come on but rather the need to be with a mature fatherly figure. Was he was imagining that he was younger and in the early stages of courtship with his wife? Was his obsession with the past and his wish to swim the county a desire to rekindle happiness from his adolescence? The swimmer is an engrossing film however it is also disturbing because it exposes the shallowness of suburban life with its trappings of materialism and social status in a provocative way.
In addition it also raises the spectacle of how callous and contemptuous people can be when you have lost your social gravitates as a consequence of family or employment upheaval. In the swimmer many were all too eager to use the opportunity to mock Ned Merrill now that he had fallen from grace, the men because their wives had desired him and the women because he had rejected them. Others just simply on the basis of past envy, jealousy and resentment toward his family and status.
53 out of 64 people found the following review useful:
The Swimmer: A Psychological Puzzle To Solve, 24 February 2004
Author: jm000 from United States
Ned Merrill, a Park Avenue (New York) executive, who marries into money (his
wife Lucinda), produces two daughters (Ellen and Aggie) and lives a
self-centered, self-serving, philandering life in a wealthy suburban
community in Connecticut, has been absent from his social circle for a
while. The entire story takes place on the day that he reappears. The length
of his absence and where he was and what he was doing during the absence
remains a mystery in this story. All that is certain is that Ned has had
some sort of psychological break (amnesia or repression) and has lost the
last two years of his memory. He thinks that it is two years earlier than it
actually is. Generally, whatever was going on in his life two years ago is
what he thinks is going on in this life on this day. Complicating this basic
problem is an unstable perception of time, in which Ned's mind regresses in
time during the course of this day, this regression revealing itself in
Ned's comments concerning his daughters, Ned describing his daughters as
being younger and younger as the day wears on until he is partially shocked
back to reality (at the eighth pool, that of the Biswangers) into thinking
that it is only two years earlier than it actually is. Between this partial
shock back to reality and the end of the story, Ned is forced to remember
what he has chosen to forget. On this day, Ned Merrill decides to `swim
across the county,' that is, to `swim home' on `the Lucinda River,' a trek
comprised of ten swimming pools that lead to his house: (1) the pool of Don
and Helen Westerhazy, (2) the pool of Howard and Betty Graham, (3) the pool
of Mrs. Hammar (this pool is not mentioned when Ned initially maps out the
Lucinda River), (4) the pool of Mr. and Mrs. Lear, (5) the pool of Roger and
Enid Bunker, (6) the pool of Mr. and Mrs. Halloran, (7) the pool of Mr. and
Mrs. Gilmartin, (8) the pool of Henry and Grace Biswanger, (9) the pool of
Shirley Abbott and (10) the public swimming pool. The evidence of what Ned
has chosen to forget (as well as some things that he never knew), like
pieces of puzzle, is revealed in what is said by the people with whom Ned
interacts on this day, whereas what Ned chooses to remember is revealed in
what he himself says. A good movie, I think. The viewer has to pay attention
to the details in order to put the puzzle together. Burt Lancaster was 53 to
55 years of age during the filming of this movie. Most guys stop looking
that healthy 20 years earlier.
41 out of 45 people found the following review useful:
Wonderfully Sad Portrait of Suburban Loneliness, 2 June 2006
Author: brocksilvey from United States
Frank Perry's screen adaptation of the achingly sad John Cheever short
story gets the tone of Cheever's story just right, even if the movie
itself doesn't have quite the same impact.
There have been countless strong and powerful films made around the theme of suburban loneliness, and this movie belongs to that genre. There's something so poignant about the idea that someone can exist in a world that's manufactured for the sole purpose of providing its inhabitants with luxury, pleasure and convenience, and still be miserable. You'd think people would have gotten the point by now, and figured out that privilege, wealth and materialism have virtually nothing to do with ultimate happiness, but if our own consumerist culture is any indication, they haven't.
What helps "The Swimmer" to stand out from other similarly-themed films is the way the story is told. It's only through the reactions of others that we begin to sense what's wrong with Burt Lancaster's character. To us, he looks the picture of middle-aged robustness and health. Lancaster became a much better actor as he aged, and he gives a wonderful performance here, as his bravado and macho virility (the strutting and preening of a man on top of the world) slowly dissolves into a lost insecurity, until the film's final devastating moments leave him as forlorn as a baby.
What a sad, sad movie.
44 out of 58 people found the following review useful:
A strong movie, rarely seen, with a telescoping metaphor, 20 June 2000
Author: Queseyo from Houston, Texas
I saw this movie in 1968 when it came out, and have never been able to
forget it. I never found anyone who had ever heard of it--a shame. It's
favorite Burt Lancaster performance: I can't imagine anyone else doing the
When Neddy is ready to leave the garden cocktail party he has been invited to, he looks out across the valley and sees the row of pools, all belonging to his neighbors. He's obviously a poet, and sees the chain of pools as a river (Metaphor). He decides to swim back home. Little does he, or we, know at this point what going home means! He goes from house to house, he greets his friends and jumps into their pools. We become a little worried as things seem to get a little out of hand--a little more so at each house. It's not long before we realize that this "river" is (Meta-Metaphor!) a trip through time, through his life--and that he has made one fine mess of it. The ending is amazing, and almost unbearable.
25 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
Way ahead of its time film about the falseness of the American Dream., 4 November 2008
Author: RedRoadster from London, England
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Swimmer" is a one of a kind movie, adapted from a John Cheever
The Film opens with the sound of footsteps moving through the woods accompanied by a low eerie music. Occasionally animals and scenes of nature both in daylight and at night come into the cameras focus. The camera moves along looking at trees, a lake and the wildlife clearly representing what someone is seeing as they walk along. Eventually, a man clad only in a pair of black swimming trunks emerges from the woods, skips up to the edge of a suburban swimming pool and dives in. Having swum a couple of lengths he is greeted at one end by the owner of the house holding out a drink and welcoming him to come and join his guests. The Swimmer is Ned Merrill (Burt Lancaster) and it soon becomes apparent that everyone at the house knows him and is happy to see him. He is charming and charismatic with the male guests and flirtatious with the females who obviously find him attractive. The other guests have not seen him for quite some time and when Ned is asked where he has been he evasively states "here and there." When further questioned if he has had a good summer he replies "sure, just great." The guests then begin to look puzzled when he gives answers to further questions that just don't seem to make any sense. They exchange confused looks and clearly know something that we don't. Ned, whilst looking out over the Connecticut valley begins to get an idea that he could swim in stages back to his house by using briefly the pools of several of his neighbours. he boldly announces that today he plans to "swim across the county !"
As Ned visits each house and swims in each pool something more is revealed about his life and how he has behaved towards others in the past. Some people are pleased to see him, others are contemptuous of him and a few downright hate the sight of him.
What becomes clear (SPOILER AHEAD) is that Ned has been away for a long time and re emerges into the life he once knew believing that it is about two years earlier than the present. He appears to have been a high flying Manhattan advertising executive who had the house, the car, the wife and the money but lost it all by living a life of pure selfishness. We are told that he married into the upper middle class and seems to have been given most of the success he enjoyed. At the various different pools he is revealed as a cheating husband, a bad father, a crook and a "fair weather friend". The result of his behaviour was that his wife either kicked him out or he was fired from his job or both.
It is possible that Ned's fall from grace brought about a nervous breakdown which has led to his memory loss and distorted view of reality. He may have even been hospitalised for the period that he is absent from the neighbourhood, but the absence is never explained. It is also unclear what became of his wife and daughters. They might simply have left him, but there are hints that they may actually be dead.
The final scene where Ned eventually arrives "home" and his disillusionment is brought crashing back to reality is a great piece of symbolic storytelling.
Most of "The Swimmer" was shot in 1966 and finally released in 1968. Maybe back then audiences weren't ready to question the themes that are raised. Central to the story is the falseness of the American dream and how if you're not "somebody" you're not only a nobody, but you're also not even welcome. The film "American Beauty" made in 1998 takes the same swipe at society and is a great film in its own right, but "The Swimmer" made thirty years earlier, is so much more effective at exposing the corrupt underbelly of the professional suburban existence.
Burt Lancaster played many memorable roles and was certainly in much more enjoyable movies, but I think he does his finest acting in "The Swimmer." He is perfect as the arrogant yet vulnerable and bemused Ned who cant work out whats going on. The movie does appear dated today and the musical score is very sixties, but any serious film fan should definitely see this at least once. It really is unforgettable.
26 out of 33 people found the following review useful:
Absolutely unique, 12 October 1999
Author: RNMorton from West Chester, Pa
This movie is not for everyone, but everyone I know who's seen it admits that it's one-of-a-kind. Burt Lancaster is flat-out powerful in the lead, as the man who decides one day to swim his way through his neighbors' pools to his home. As he makes his way pool by pool we learn more and more about Burt's real character. A kaleidoscopic study of how we see ourselves, versus how others see us. One of my favorites, please give this movie a shot.
25 out of 34 people found the following review useful:
The American nightmare!, 4 February 2007
Author: unreasonableboy from Dallas, Texas
What can you say about the swimmer that hasn't already been said. On
reflection you have to feel sorry for Ned Merrill, certainly you can't
have any sympathy for any of the characters he meets on his way! If he
has suffered some sort of mental breakdown the question is why? This
movie was set in the civilized environment of New England, Connecticut
to be precise and it highlights the cozy drinks around the swimming
pool and lavish dinner party Scean that is part and parcel of American
It's perplexing to me that people would put so much expenditure and effort in putting in a pool something that you can only use in New England for about 5-6 months of the year. (Although in the Bizwangers case they added a sliding roof whereby at least they could use the pool all year round!) However the real reason for a pool in New England is to have your friends around, show off your pool and drink and eat to excess. However you can't be satisfied with that, in addition you have to have a pig roast with professional caterers and bar tenders to boot with a band playing in the back ground, thats real living. Material possessions are not just something to show off but are part of what is required to achieve status, without status in the US you have achieved nothing.
So how did Ned Merrill find himself in this predicament? In a conversation with Julie Ann Hooper he recalls that while on a transatlantic ship down in steerage he saw his wife to be, up in first class, he climbed over the barriers wooed her with his charm and that was the beginning of a whirlwind romance. So Ned Merrill found the inside track to achieve high social status. Next comes the huge wedding no expense spared, the grand house and soon the family. Status is not just 6 figure salary, but the house, the cars, the family, the job, throwing wild parties and being a member of an influential committee that's doing charity work. That's not it, being seen at $10000 plate political fund raisers, being a church deacon and basically rubbing shoulders with the movers and shakers in your suburban community is a requirement. At one scene at the Graham's Betty says to her husband "I wish we couldm travel more!" A bemused looking Howard says" why we have everything we want right here? That just sums up the attitude that the whole world evolves around their neighborhood. It epitomizes the culture of contentment and it's world of self importance.
Yet Ned Merills found to his cost that when his wife left him, or threw him out he found that everything else became very imbalanced and just like a house of cards once one falls the rest all comes down. Well you can figure out all of the sordid scenarios in sequence, many reviewers have tried but the bottom line is that your life and status can nose-dive into a downward spiral with marriage and work upheaval i.e. friends suddenly don't return calls, invitations to regular events don't turn up but worse you find that you are tapped of favors from colleagues and employment prospects start to very look bleak.
For people who live in such circles this must be their worst nightmare because you lose one you can lose it all. How do you adjust to such a dramatic change! In Ned Merrills case he became so obsessed in pursuing his American dream and totally absorbed in what he regarded as important that he fell into a state of self-propelling delusion.
Shallow, selfish people who put so much emphasis on status and material possessions as a sign of success find it hard to cope with such misfortunes . Why didn't Neddy just pack his bags and move to the west coast and start again? He can't, partly because of his pride and the fact that he was handed a lot probably makes it all the more harder. But the answer to the question is that he was conditioned to believe in a certain way and that without all of the above he was nothing, and he can't accept it?
All in all Ned Merill made things worse for himself, nothing to fall back on, nothing for a rainy day,no safe deposit box full of gold Krugerrands or cash. He threw everything into his lifestyle took himself too seriously and found very little sympathy from former friends, colleagues and acquaintances when the tide turned! Burt Lancaster was proud of this movie and so he should. His performance is very believable, he exuded confidence, happiness and the American spirit. Interestingly at the beginning of the movie he in no way portrayed a middle aged man on skid row which makes the ending even more disturbing when you see the state of him at the end. It could happen to the best of us, Was this what Cheever was trying to portray?
30 out of 44 people found the following review useful:
Cleansing of the Soul, 4 November 2003
Author: sol1218 from brooklyn NY
"The Swimmer" was a critical and financial disappointment back in 1968
when it was released because it was a subject matter that was never
covered before in the movies, as far as I know. The film was so ahead
of it's time that the viewers back then couldn't quite understand just
what it was trying to tell them.
The movie starts off with Ned Merrill, Burt Lancaster, coming out of the woods in rural Connecticut wearing nothing more then bathing trunks to his neighbors Donald and Helen Westerhazy, Tony Bickley and Diana Vander Vils, home. After impulsively taking a dive into the Westerhazy's swimming pool Ned gets the idea of going home by swimming in all of his neighbors pools, that ring the neighborhood, until he reaches his home on the other side of the woods.
The Westerhazy's seem happy and at the same time surprised to see Ned who seems, by their conversation with him, to have been away for some time. From what we can gather from the talk between Ned and the Westerhazy's Ned's, or Naddy as they call him, a very successful person in both his work and his marriage to his lovely wife Lucinda with whom he has two beautiful daughters; in short Ned is a success in everything that he ever did.
We first begin to notice that there's something wrong with what Ned's talking about himself and his wife and daughters when his neighbors seem startled and taken back a bit by Ned's boasting, that's the only word I can come up with in regards to the way Ned is talking about himself. The Westerhazy's want to say something but settle not to and seem to play along with Ned's story telling. It's like you would do with a youngster who's making up things in order not to hurt his or her feelings.
As Ned starts to swim from swimming pool to swimming pool every one of his neighbors who's pool he swims through begin to put a piece of the puzzle of Ned's life into place. Even the swimming pools that Ned swims through begin to take a different look like the insight that the audience gets about Ned's past.
Going from swimming pools in private homes and mansions to the public pool at the local recreation center where Ned has to borrow .50 cents, which came as a great shock and embarrassment to him and his ego, to swim in. We also begin to see during his swimming adventures in the movie Ned slowly being worn down. Vigorous and athletic looking in the beginning of the film, for a 50 or so year-old, Ned turns into a broken down and pathetic looking old man toward the end.
Even though the movie doesn't come right out and say it the audience comes to see just what Ned is really all about through the people that he meets, who reveal bit's and piece's of his past, in his quest to swim home through their swimming pools; And at the same time so does Ned by the time he makes it home.
Ned's the type of person that everyone watching the movie can either relate to or identify with as someone that everyone's come across in their life. Ned's a person who lives in a dream world that he built around himself and doesn't want to see reality until it hits him right between the eyes. You have to see the movie a number of times to realize what it's trying to tell you about Ned: What he's all about? Where does he come from? What's the story with his wife and daughters? What did he have to do with those neighbors that he comes in contact with in the movie and most of all what state of mind is Ned in?
You somehow begin to realize that there's something wrong with Ned almost as soon as you see him but you just can't put your finger on it. "The Swimmer" makes you think, as soon as the credits start to roll down the screen, where you know that something isn't quite right with the picture and the person in it but it takes some ninety five minutes to see it for what it is. The movie does it by putting together all the swimming pools that Ned swims through like some kind of cleansing of Ned's soul that conditions him for the hard reality that's about to strike him at the conclusion of the film.
26 out of 37 people found the following review useful:
Strange Story Of The Shallow & Selfish, 24 December 2005
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of the strangest movies I own. Then again, portraits of
delusional, mentally-ill people tend to be a little different. This,
however, is VERY different and is a success because Burt Lancaster
plays the the title role so well.
While Lancaster's character, "Neddy," is strange, so is the storyline: a man decides to "swim" home, doing laps in neighbors'pools for several miles until he reaches "home." That's the plot.
However, the real story is uncovering who and what he is really was in the past. It's also an expose of Yuppie suburban snobbery, something that will never go out of style but is 1960s-ish in this film. It's interesting to see a bunch of familiar actors faces pop up as the various neighbors as Lancaster swims from pool to pool.
To focus on the shallow neighbors - and they are shallow, vain and pretty revolting - is to miss how "Neddy" is worse than them. Slowly but surely, he is exposed as an adulterer, crook, completely selfish, poor father, etc. etc.
In the end, we see just how delusional he is, too, completely unable or unwilling to see reality, still living in his dreamworld. Apparently, two years before the scenes in here take place, he booted out of his house by his also-unlikable wife and lost everything...his family, job, you name it.
Much of this film is dream-like, nicely photographed with some pretty nature shots, particularly the first half which features a young actress, Janet Landgard, who was "introduced" in this film but never made it as an actress. She plays Burt's former babysitter and he meets up with her early on and then tries to hit on the pretty 20-year- old, finally scaring her away.
Landgard has the second-biggest role in the film. The third belongs to Janice Rule, who appears near the end for a long pool-side soap opera scene, the last encounter Burt has until he reaches his destination. Everyone else in the film has a cameo-type part, including Joan Rivers, who is interesting to see.
Overall, it's an unpleasant, haunting tale of shallow people but it's well-done and sure to evoke a number of discussions and interpretations. It's also interesting to view this movie twice, seeing it a second time when you know exactly Lancaster's situation and mental state. This came from a very short story by John Cheever (10-15 pages, depending on the size of the book) so much of the movie and almost all of the dialog, is made up. This is certainly a film you remember.
16 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
Swimming for Eden, 21 September 2005
Author: Judson Knight from United States
Judging by the comments here, apparently I'm not the only one who was
incredibly moved by this masterpiece--a masterpiece of storytelling on
Cheever's part, that is, and a more than passable film portrayal of
what one might call "the perfect short story." If HBO had existed in
the 1960s, and Rod Serling had written for it, this is what "Twilight
Zone" might have looked like: a tangled, twisted terrain of the human
psyche that leads to the deepest of our fears--and the most profound of
our hopes. The stakes for Ned Merrill, as we come to discover, are
about as high as they can be for any character not caught in a literal
life and death struggle. But he might as well be, judging by the size
and fearsomeness of the phantoms that haunt his way. For this reason I
think I'd say that other than *Glengarry Glen Ross,* this is the most
terrifying film ever made.
In contrast to many others, however, I don't think Ned is delusional: I think he's spent so long believing his own publicity, as it were, that he hasn't fully accepted what has happened to him. (And of course, "what has happened to him" is almost entirely of his own making, which makes his predicament all the more painful because it seems to offer no hope of redemption.) And he's clearly one of those hail-fellow-well-met types who, when he promises he's going to do something for someone--as he continually does in the movie, right up to the point where he promises to pay his bill to a local proprietor--he truly means it, at least in the moment.
Additionally, "The Swimmer" seems like far too profound a work to tie it to themes as dreary and shopworn as the emptiness of suburban life or the dark side of the American dream. Granted, a great deal of powerful literature, dating back at least to Nathanael West's *Day of the Locust*, has been written around the second of these ideas, but "The Swimmer" seems to speak to something much deeper, a haunted place in the human soul. In the ads for the movie--which, in sharp contrast to the brilliant development of the story itself, attempted to lay out all the details in a way at once pedantic and almost pandering (as previews in those days tended to be), a voice-over asks if the viewer might see Ned in him- or herself.
*The Swimmer* is an epic, but an unusual one. Not because of the small scale and the deceptively trivial-seeming stakes involved it the epic journey--that's an idea Joyce introduced years earlier in *Ulysses*--but because of that journey's destination. Ned isn't going toward a new land, but back--back to nothing short of Eden. And if it's an epic, then he's a hero of sorts, and not entirely an antihero either. After all, even with all the things you learn about him along the way, it's hard not to root for Ned Merrill.
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