Art of the Essay Honors
Analysis of Film versus Short Story in "The Swimmer"
"The Swimmer" a short story written by John Cheever was originally published in The New Yorker, July 18th, 1964. In 1968, the short story was adopted into a film, directed by Frank Perry, starring Burt Lancaster. Both the film and the short story begin with Ned Merril, a seemingly wealthy, popular, middle-aged man deciding to swim home through his neighbors' pools and discovering more than he would care to know along the way. At every encounter, Ned is brought to a different aspect of his life. In the beginning, Ned talks to his neighbors about his youth when "anything was possible", and at the end he is forced to face reality when he comes home to an abandoned house and discovers that everything that was once his right had disappeared. In Frank Perry’s 1968 film, “The Swimmer” the director uses extreme close-up shots, music, blurring camera effects and adds new characters that are not in the short story to help audiences visualize Ned’ Merrill’s false perceptions of the truth.
Perry periodically uses music and extreme close-up shots on Ned’s face to provide the audience with a visual and audible representation of Ned’s feeling of pain, fatigue and distress. Especially during the end of the movie, an orchestra plays a very depressing melody that reflects the sorrow that Ned feels when he returns to an empty home, where he thought his daughters were playing tennis and his wife still loved him. Using dissolve transitions from the shots of Ned’s face to shots of open fields and nature, Perry brings dream-like quality to the film that is not seen in the short story. The blurriness that comes with the dissolve transition, represent Ned’s blurred perception of the truth. Like how the film begins sunny and ends rainy, dissolve transitions are used earlier in the film and are progressively used less and less as Ned faces the reality of his...