The Swimmer is the story of a man (Burt Lancaster) who begins at the dawn of a new day to swim in the backyard pool of some friends. It occurs to him that a string of other backyard pools reaches to his own home. Why not swim all the way home? Some of the pool owners are happy to see him. Others hate him. One is a bitter young woman who loved him once. We learn something about this man’s life at every poolside, until finally we are able to piece together a story of his disgrace and failure.
The Swimmer begins as a perfectly realistic film. But somewhere along the way we realize it is an allegory. At every moment, we have the feeling that something tragic has already happened to these people. And, of course, something has.
Burt Lancaster is superb in his finest performance. There are also fine performances by Janice Rule as the mistress, by Janet Landgard, as the young girl, and by a host of character actors. The Swimmer is a strange, stylized work, a brilliant and disturbing one.
Time Out London
‘enigmatic, poetic, disturbing’