As both the Italian Neorealist and French New Wave movements proved, there is a great pleasure in simply observing people intimately interacting within their natural environments.
And like the landmark early films in those respective subgenres — stuff like The Bicycle Thief and The 400 Blows — the critically celebrated Goa-set film The Pool embraces stripped down aesthetics and a meandering tone in a deceptively simple tale of class struggle.
But although the movie examines life on the often-mean streets of the beautiful but impoverished city of Panjim, India, it might come as a surprise that the creative force behind this elegant drama is in fact an American.
Chris Smith is a documentary filmmaker whose most noted effort is the quirky and subversive portrait of ineptitude, American Movie and The Pool is his first stab at narrative feature filmmaking.
“In 2003 I was in Panjim helping a friend shoot a movie,” recalls Smith, “and was so taken by the people that I decided to set The Pool there and adapt it to that culture. I tried to make the film connect on an emotional level which, having never done a film like this, was challenging and a radical departure.”
Loosely based on the Iowa-set short story by Randy Russell, The Pool tells the moving and instantly absorbing tale of Venkatesh (Venkatesh Chaven) a working class Indian boy who becomes obsessed with a wealthy family’s luxurious swimming pool and vows to do whatever it takes to swim in it.
Stunningly photographed by Smith and utilizing a cast of mostly non-actors, The Pool is ultimately about the universal journey that all of us are on.
“The idea is that Venkatesh starts out with a goal but the bonds he develops become more important to him,” says Smith. “And that’s often how it works for all of us. On the way to reaching your set goal, anything can change.”