Deep End (film)

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Deep End
UK theatrical release poster
Directed byJerzy Skolimowski
Written by
  • Jerzy Skolimowski
  • Jerzy Gruza
  • Boleslaw Sulik
Produced byHelmut Jedele
CinematographyCharly Steinberger
Edited byBarrie Vince
Music by
  • Maran Film
  • Kettledrum Productions
Distributed by
  • Jugendfilm-Verleih (West Germany)
  • Connoisseur Films (United Kingdom)
Release dates
  • 1 September 1970 (1970-09-01) (Venice Film Festival)
  • 25 March 1971 (1971-03-25) (United Kingdom)
Running time
91 minutes
  • West Germany
  • United Kingdom

Deep End is a 1970 psychological drama film co-written and directed by Jerzy Skolimowski, starring Jane Asher, John Moulder Brown and Diana Dors.[1] Set in London, the film focuses on the relationship between two young colleagues at a suburban bath house and swimming pool.


Mike, a 15-year-old dropout, finds a job in a public bath in East London. He is trained by his colleague Susan, a woman 10 years his senior. Susan is a tease who plays with Mike's and other men's feelings, sometimes warm and affectionate and sometimes cold and distant. Mike's first female client is sexually stimulated by pushing his head into her bosom and talking suggestively about George Best. Mike is confused by this, and at first does not want to accept the tip he receives from her, but Susan tells him that sexual services are a normal practice at the baths and encourages him to serve some of her female clients for larger tips.

Mike fantasises about Susan and falls in love with her, but she has a wealthy young fiancé, Chris. Mike also discovers that Susan is cheating on Chris with Mike's former physical education teacher, who works at the baths as a swim instructor for teenage girls whom he touches inappropriately. Mike follows Susan on her dates with Chris and the instructor and tries to disrupt them. Susan becomes angry at Mike after he follows her and Chris into an adult movie theater and touches her breast, but provides just enough encouragement for him to continue. Mike's infatuation with Susan continues despite his friends mocking him, Susan mocking his mother and running over his bicycle with her car, and his activities drawing the ire of Susan's boyfriends, the local police, and their boss. Mike refuses other outlets for sex, such as his former girlfriend who comes to the baths and flirts with him and a prostitute in Soho who offers him a discount.

While following Susan on a date, Mike sees and steals an advertising photo cutout of a stripper who resembles her. He confronts Susan with it on the London Underground, flying into a violent tantrum when Susan teasingly refuses to tell him whether or not she is the woman in the photo. Mike then takes the cutout to the baths after hours and swims naked with it.

The next morning, Mike disrupts a foot race directed by the physical education teacher and punctures the tyres of his car while Susan is driving it. Susan grows angry and hits Mike, knocking the diamond off of her new engagement ring. Anxious to find the lost diamond, Mike and Susan collect the surrounding snow in plastic bags and take it back to the closed baths to melt it, using exposed electrical wiring from a lowered ceiling lamp to heat an electric kettle in the empty pool. While Susan is briefly out of the room, Mike finds the diamond and lies down naked with it on his tongue. He teases Susan by showing her the diamond but refusing to give it to her until she undresses. She complies and he gives her the diamond; as she is about to leave, she reconsiders and lies down next to him in the pool. They have a sexual encounter, although it is not clear whether or not Mike is able to perform.

Chris then telephones, and Susan rushes around the empty pool hurriedly gathering her clothes to go and meet him. Mike begs her to stay and talk to him. Meanwhile, an attendant arrives and opens the valve to start filling the pool with water. Mike becomes more insistent, chasing Susan around the rapidly filling pool, and finally hitting her in the head with the ceiling lamp, injuring her. Dazed, she stumbles and falls into the water, as the lamp knocks a can of red paint into the pool. Mike embraces the nude Susan underwater, just as he embraced the photo cutout. Water continues to fill the pool, with the live wire dangling within.




The film was made in about six months from conception to completion.[2] It was shot largely in Munich, with some exterior scenes shot in Soho and Leytonstone in London.[2] The cast members could improvise and were told to remain in character even when a scene was not going as planned.[2] Many years after the film's release, Asher denied suggestions that she had used a body double for some of her scenes: "I certainly didn't! ... And, looking back, I like the way it's done."[3]


The film features the song "Mother Sky" by Can in an extended sequence set in Soho, and "But I Might Die Tonight" by Cat Stevens in the opening scene and finale; the previously unreleased version heard in the film was eventually released in 2020 on a reissue of Stevens' album Tea for the Tillerman.


The film was one of a series of supporting performances by Diana Dors that helped reestablish her career.[4]


The film received critical acclaim, with Andrew Sarris comparing it to the work of Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut and Roman Polanski.

Penelope Gilliatt called it "a work of peculiar, cock-a-hoop gifts".[2]

In The Guardian Ryan Gilbey wrote: "The consensus when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September 1970 was that it would have been assured of winning the Golden Lion, if only the prize-giving hadn't been suspended the previous year."[2]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and called it an "observant and sympathetic movie" that "deserves a better ending".[5]

Roger Greenspun of The New York Times wrote: "Although it has a strong and good story, Deep End is put together out of individual, usually comic routines. Many of these don't work, but many more work very well."[6]

Variety wrote, "Sharply-edged hues, taut editing, a fine musical accomp, good playing alongside the leads and Skolimowsky's frisky, playful but revealing direction make this a pic with commercial legs and yet with a personalized quality for more selective spots."[7]

Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and called it "a stunning introduction to a talented film maker", praising the "delicious humor and eroticism" as Skolimowski "plays with the audience much in the same way that Miss Asher entices Brown".[8]

Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called Deep End "a masterpiece" that "shows Skolimowski to be a major film-maker, impassioned yet disciplined. He runs an eloquent camera and evokes fine performances. (Moulder Brown and Miss Asher really are flawless)."[9]

Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote: "Judging from Deep End, Skolimowski has a fairly distinctive film personality, but it happens to be a split personality, split in a way – half-Truffaut, half-Polanski – that I find rather disconcerting and unappealing. Imagine a film like Stolen Kisses [turning, at about the half-way point, into a film like Repulsion [1965] and you have Deep End."[10]

Nigel Andrews of The Monthly Film Bulletin called it "a study in the growth of obsession that is both funny and frighteningly exact."[11]

In an interview with NME in 1982, David Lynch said of Deep End: "I don't like colour movies and I can hardly think about colour. It really cheapens things for me and there's never been a colour movie I've freaked out over except one, this thing called Deep End, which had really great art direction."[12]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 90% based on 20 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10.[13]


In 2009, Bavaria Media, a subsidiary of Bavaria Film, which co-produced the film in 1970 through its subsidiary Maran Film, began a digital restoration in honor of the film's 40th anniversary, in cooperation with the British Film Institute.[14] The restored film was re-released in UK cinemas on 6 May 2011 and on Blu-ray Disc and DVD on 18 July 2011 as part of the BFI Flipside series.[15] In March 2012, it was first shown on TV by Film4.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Deep End". British Film Institute. Retrieved 23 December 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e Gilbey, Ryan (1 May 2011). "Deep End: pulled from the water". The Guardian.
  3. ^ "Interview with David Hayles". The Times. May 2011.
  4. ^ Vagg, Stephen (7 September 2020). "A Tale of Two Blondes: Diana Dors and Belinda Lee". FilmInk.
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (1 December 1971). "Deep End". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 28 May 2019 – via
  6. ^ Greenspun, Roger (11 August 1971). "Screen: 'Deep End,' Fantasies in a Public Bath". The New York Times. p. 42. Retrieved 6 July 2023.
  7. ^ "Film Reviews: Deep End". Variety. 16 September 1970. p. 23.
  8. ^ Siskel, Gene (30 November 1971). "2 on Teen-Age Love". Chicago Tribune. p. 5.
  9. ^ Thomas, Kevin (26 August 1971). "Growing Up Theme of 'Deep End'". Los Angeles Times. p. 23.
  10. ^ Arnold, Gary (23 September 1971). "Skolimowski's 'Deep End'". The Washington Post. p. C1.
  11. ^ Andrews, Nigel (April 1971). "Deep End". The Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 38, no. 447. p. 71.
  12. ^ McKenna, Kristine (21 August 1982). "Out to Lynch". NME. Archived from the original on 13 March 2012 – via
  13. ^ "Deep End". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 26 November 2023.
  14. ^ Roxborough, Scott (15 May 2009). "Bavaria restoring 'Deep End'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  15. ^ "A New Digital Restoration – Deep End" (PDF) (Press release). British Film Institute. 4 April 2011. Retrieved 11 April 2013.

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