François Ozon

Swimming Pool

Interviewed by Jamie Russell

One of France's most talked about young directors, François Ozon has managed to confound audiences by switching effortlessly between genres and styles - the murder mystery musical "8 Women"; fairytale "Criminal Lovers"; and Fassbinder-influenced "Water Drops on Burning Rocks". His latest film is "Swimming Pool", an English language thriller about a writer (Charlotte Rampling) on holiday in France.

Films about writers are notoriously difficult. The act of writing is a pretty boring subject isn't it?

Maybe you'd need to ask the audience! For me it's not boring. When you have someone like Charlotte Rampling [who plays mystery writer Sarah Morton] on a word processor, it's already sexy. I wanted to let the audience feel the rhythm of the creative process. At the beginning you don't know exactly where you are going, you have to take your time, you have to think. Then suddenly many things happen and the story arrives and things go very quickly.

You asked Ruth Rendell to help with the project...

I asked her if she'd be interested in writing the book that Sarah Morton is supposedly working on in the film. I didn't want her to novelise the script, just to freely imagine what story Sarah Morton might have been writing. But I think she didn't really understand. She sent me a very cold letter saying she didn't need any help with her imagination and she never works with anyone else. She was very cold, like Sarah Morton. But I would love her to see the film.

Why did you pick Charlotte Rampling for the lead?

She usually plays femme fatales, but here she's very ordinary. What's so fascinating about Charlotte is that she's never really ordinary, she always has something mysterious about her. When you look at her onscreen there is always something going on inside her - she has a face on which you can project many feelings.

Did she find the dancing scene and the nude shots difficult?

You'll have to ask her. I'm not sure she would have agreed to dance naked! The nude scene wasn't a problem for her, because she knew it was important for the character and I think she was able to do that because she knows she has a beautiful body and she trusted me. So it was not a problem.

Did Ludivine Sagnier feel the same way?

I wanted to give her the chance to be sexy and play on her femininity, and so I asked her to work on her body before the shooting. She had a very strict diet and a personal trainer, and when she arrived on-set she was so proud of her body she was willing to be naked all the time.

Was she happy with the lingering shots you have of the camera running along her body?

It wasn't a problem. You know, actresses don't always know what you are doing. She is a young actress and she didn't know exactly what I was doing with my camera!

"Swimming Pool" is released in the UK on Friday 22nd August 2003.