Water Lilies

Céline Sciamma's debut is shot in a minimalist, realist style, but there are occasional flourishes which reveal the influence of David Lynch. At the party at the end of the film, the boys from the swimming team have their trunks on their heads and are rowdily jumping around in slow motion. They are dehumanised – the film treating them as equivalent to a brood of xenomorphs on the prowl for female flesh. Meanwhile, the beautiful Floriane dances provocatively trying to grab their attention. Her beauty means she is constantly harassed by men, and she has been conditioned to accept her fate and respond to their advances, although she doesn't actually want to sleep with any of them. Both Floriane and the boy François (the mirrored names feel significant) end up using two younger girls for their own sexual purposes. Their influence is ultimately toxic, and the film reads like a warning against becoming a victim of your own adolescent sexual desires.

Events revolve around the swimming pool, where Floriane is the captain of a synchronised swimming team. The sport is physically demanding and the routines are impressive, but there is a rigidity to the beauty ideals it embodies. It requires a lot of work and a lot of make-up. The film closes with the two younger girls rekindling their friendship in the pool – they jump in with their clothes on and float peacefully together, revealing the film's title to be a metaphor for that end-state. The swimming pool becomes not a site of conquest and competition, but serenity and companionship away from the predatory nature of patriarchal heterosexual society.

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