Gilles Lellouche takes the plunge as a director

Film still of Le Grand Bain (Sink Or Swim) © RR

For his first solo effort behind the camera, Gilles Lellouche has filmed a disenchanted group of men in their forties who regain their lust for life when they take up synchronised swimming. A choral feature film screened Out of Competition, Le Grand Bain (Sink or Swim) brings together a constellation of actors including some of the most famous names in French film: Mathieu Amalric, Marina Foïs, Leïla Bekthi, Benoit Poolvorde, Guillaume Canet and Virginie Efira.

Along with a group of other men in their forties who all feel unappreciated, Marcus, Simon, Bertrand, Thierry and Laurent are in training at a public swimming pool under Delphine's rigorous coaching. To regain the admiration of their wives, they have decided to don their trunks and take up a sport that is uncommon for men: synchronised swimming.

Gilles Lellouche explains that the ground work for Grand Bain (Sink or Swim) began eight years ago, when he started putting down on paper some of his thoughts about the lassitude of his generation confronted with the rise of individualism in society. The plot of the film was then inspired by a documentary about a group of Swedish men who practised synchronised swimming.

While writing the feature film, the director paid particular attention to character development, working on the trajectories of each of his protagonists for a year so that none of them were left behind. He also explains that he wanted to open up a discussion about the body, about “imperfect body types in an era of the dictatorship of aesthetic perfectionism”.

We see Mathieu Almaric as a depressed husband, Guillaume Canet as a choleric boss, Philippe Katerine as a timid pool employee … And yet, the male characters do not eclipse their female counterparts, least of all the character portrayed by Virginie Efira, who gives a new purpose to an athletic discipline that had lost some of its former glory.

The actors trained for seven months to prepare themselves for the film scenes. On the technical side, Gilles Lellouche says that the biggest challenge for his team was to overcome the echo inherent in the acoustics of a swimming pool. The sound track of his film harks back to the sounds of the 1980s: with Tears For Fears, Phil Collins and Imagination.