Director: Jerzy Skolimowski
Cast: Jane Asher, John Moulder-Brown, Karl Michael Vogler, Diana Dors, Christopher Sandford
88min | Drama | UK/Germany 1970
Jerzy Skolimowski left Poland after his 1966 film Barrier to direct three German co-productions: The Departure, The Adventures of Gerard and the rather quaint Deep End which was set in London but was mostly shot in Munich, Germany.
In this prescient view of ‘modern’ London, Skolimowski explores the burgeoning power of youth in contrast to age through a mishmash of interconnecting sexual and emotional encounters. Mike (Moulder-Brown), a naive and fresh-faced public school-leaver takes a job in the local public baths. He falls for his colleague Susan (a gamine Jane Asher), who is already involved with an obnoxious fiancé (Sanford) and her old teacher (Vogler), who seduced her when she was underage. Meanwhile, Mike is being harassed by a busty blond client (Dors) who fantasises about George Best while she molests him. When Susan loses a diamond ring given to her by her fiancé, Mike’s hormones are in overdrive as he tries to help her find it and their putative romance has a messy ending.
The Sixties are over in DEEP END and London is anything but swinging: the sleet grey streets a symbol for a down-trodden capital. Despite this, Skolimowski’s dialogue feels fresh and authentic and the detail spot on: Jane Asher rocks white lace-up boots and a yellow plastic midi mac and Moulder Brown, a sports jacket and white sneakers (he cleans the bath with ‘Vim’). Existential angst dominates these characters, each bleaker than the other but the tone is chipper rather than downbeat, often accompanied by the musical strains of The Can and Cat Stevens.
Mistreated by her teacher, Susan uses her fiancé to get even with her next love interest; she is a classic ‘victim turned abused’. Mike is very much the naïve bystander and the work environment alien to him; he is also a victim and, in the end, an abuser out of control. Susan’s teacher and her fiancé are both insecure, preying on Susan and her co-dependence. Diana Dors’ client is a throwback to an era (nearly half a century ago) where many people had no bathroom and were forced to wash in the public baths. Her obsession with football is also significant: long before the sport became a middle class hobby, football and its heroes represented a way out for the working classes, compensating for their dreary life: A visit to the match was a live chance to worship their heroes. Sex Education posters state: “What if a Man could get pregnant” underlining the emotional alienation between the sexes, despite the advent of sexual liberation and the Pill, DEEP END is still marooned in a world Of Victorian values, quite the opposite of the rosy vision of the ‘swinging sixties’, Jane Asher carries the film, a figure of feminine vulnerability fighting her corner in a sea of emotional turmoil that ends in surprising tragedy. MT
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