The Swimmer is released later this year through Peccadillo Pictures.
Looking at the stills from Adam Kalderon’s The Swimmer, you may be forgiven for thinking this is yet another gay eye candy fest for those who love their men taught, muscular and sporting speedos. However, from the outset, Kalderson’s movie laces the visual beauty of his wet, hunky swimmers with a sense of impending doom and closeted fear. Here the eye candy may be eye-popping, but the atmosphere is laced with hidden darkness as the world of elite sport is placed under the microscope.
Erez (Omer Perelman Striks) has his eyes set on a coveted Olympic swimming place as he arrives at an elite residential training programme alongside five other talented swimmers. However, behind Erez’s smile and confidence lies a sense of sadness and a need for escape. After all, his journey to this point has been dictated by a father who once dreamed of Olympic success. But to add to his confusion, Erez also holds a secret as deep as the water he glides through; his love of men.
As Erez settles into the stark, unloving and controlling world around him, he develops a secret attraction for one of his teammates, Nevo (Asaf Jonas). But as his trainer Dema (Igal Reznik) plays with the boy’s expectations and controls their world, Erez is instructed to distance himself from Nevo. But as the world surrounding Erez contracts and distorts, his secret desires and need for escape scream for release as the pool becomes a prison.
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We all know that the world of elite sport is ruthless and insular. Here athletes push themselves to the very edges of what the body is capable of – their lives dominated by a brief rush of victory and triumph. Many athletes start their careers as children; their daily lives, a controlled pattern of relentless training, dietary control, and competition. This commitment to success sees many forgo the everyday pleasures of life we all take for granted as we grow into adults. Meanwhile, the end of their career is all too often wrapped in loss and grief as they suddenly realise they have nowhere left to go.
This relentless need for control and success sits at the heart of Erez’s journey, his life given over to the pool as he attempts to make everyone happy and proud. From the start of Kalderon’s film, it’s clear that Erez is slowly drowning in expectations he cannot control. These impossible expectations also sit at the heart of his inner battle with his sexual orientation, as he attempts to cover his desires in public while embracing them in his brief moments of solitude and escape. Here Kalderon explores the institutional homophobia that still surrounds elite sporting life, as everyone around Erez hides their feelings and emotions in fear of being seen and labelled as weak.
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In creating this insular and cold world, Adam Kalderon builds on his own experiences as an Olympic contender. Here his intimate knowledge of the darkness that surrounds the sporting arena shines through the sun-drenched landscapes, tan-lines and toned physiques. This creates a movie drenched in beauty, fear, passion and isolation, one where you can almost smell the testosterone, sweat and chlorine of the sterile training venue. This is only further enhanced through the delicious cinematography of Ofer Inov and the stunning art direction of Udi Tugendreich, who bring an Almodóvar flair to The Swimmer. But it is within its final act, The Swimmer truly finds its own unique artistic voice as we witness Erez unravel and blossom, his last race a synchronised dance routine rooted in his need to be free.
The Swimmer is a movie drenched in beauty, fear, passion and isolation, one where you can almost smell the testosterone, sweat and chlorine of the sterile training venue.