Deep End (1970): Sex as Manipulation
Deep End is a tale of obsession turned violent, when naive adolescent Mike becomes attracted to his co-worker Susan. Mike’s obsession leads from deranged emotions to violent actions, due to Susan’s sexual manipulation. Deep End‘s sub-plots consists of other aspects portraying sexual behavior as abusing others. Deep End described by Adam Scovell shows sexual behavior as harrowing, ‘its highly sexualised, sometimes seedy narrative’ . Scovell’s analysis reflects Deep End’s ability to reveal sex as evoking destructive behavior. Deep End‘s use of characterisation, along with symbolic use of color, has an enormous emotional and visual power in representing sex as manipulation.
Mike’s and Susan’s Relations with Others and Themselves
Deep End‘s opening scene shows Susan’s and Mike’s different personalities, as Susan makes Mike familiar with his new duties at the public swimming baths. Whereas Susan presents herself with confidence by calling Mike ‘handsome’, Mike is introverted and lacks experience. Mike was practically still a child and unaware of those who want to sexually exploit him. Mike is sexually exploited by an older female client, who dismantles sex for Mike into a destructive aspect. She makes Mike rub oil over her body before forcing his head onto her breasts. There are specific close-ups of Mike’s expressions throughout this scene, as he becomes increasingly uncomfortable. Mike’s youthful naivety is manipulated by others’ sexual desires. As a result, Mike becomes cautious with future female clients even after Susan tells him to ‘go along with the gag’, which is to say Mike should simply accept sexual manipulation.
Mike’s encounters with female clients makes him unaware of sincerity. Mike is visited by Cathy, a past acquaintance from school. Cathy is attracted to Mike, revealing her breasts and wanting Mike to sleep with her. However, Mike’s previous sexual experiences makes him reluctant to engage Cathy’s advances. Mike’s reluctance over Cathy’s sincerity reflects the impact of Susan’s sexual manipulation. This reveals Deep End‘s representation of sex as manipulation because Susan has destructively warped Mike’s mindset.
Susan’s previous comment for Mike, to ‘go along with the gag’, indicates her promiscuous character. Susan is not a victim like Mike, but a victimiser. Susan understands Mike’s growing attraction for her, using Mike’s emotions to manipulate him. Susan allows men to become attracted to her and use her body, such as her affair with the male swimming teacher. Susan is not discreet during their affair, as she has sex with the male swimming teacher at work. Mike is well aware of their affair, which can be seen as Susan sexually manipulating him to play upon his emotions. Susan continues to play with Mike’s emotions when his mother visits the public swimming baths.
Mike’s mother as a client sparks his boyish immaturity towards Susan, who responds by referring to Mike’s mother with derogatory remarks. Susan uses Mike’s emotions to further his obsession. Susan lets Mike follow her and her fiancee into a cinema, to ignite Mike’s obsession. Susan acts ignorant to Mike feeling her breasts, which she enjoys. However, Susan slaps Mike to manipulate him and tells her fiancee to have Mike removed by security. Yet Susan engages Mike in a passionate kiss before he is removed from the cinema, continuing Susan’s sexual manipulation. This is a pivotal scene which portrays Susan’s character not only as sexually manipulative, but also sexually promiscuous. Susan makes her fiancee believe he is the only one, yet there is also Mike and the male swimming teacher, adding to Susan’s sexual promiscuity.
Susan’s behavior, which increases Mike’s obsession, eventually leads to Deep End‘s tragic climax. Following an alternation where Susan loses the diamond in her engagement ring, she and Mike attempt to recover it. When Mike recovers the diamond, he hides it from Susan to manipulate her for sex. Mike’s extreme approach to sleep with Susan results from his obsession over Susan, due to her sexual manipulation. Susan is initially reluctant, however she gives into Mike and sleeps with him. Their sexual encounter is awkward as Mike tries to live his fantasy, while Susan is emotionally unconnected. The consequences for Susan’s sexual manipulation become violent, as Mike is angry at Susan’s indifference following their sexual encounter. Mike in a moment of rage hits Susan over the head, resulting in her death. Mike, still obsessed by Susan even after her death, embraces her lifeless body completing the horrific cycle of Susan’s sexual manipulation.
Deep End’s Symbolic Qualities
Deep End has the visual capability to embody its themes for great effect. The use of color within cinema has been defined as an ‘integral element of the production and circulation of film texts’ . Color within Deep End is integral and extremely effective in symbolising its themes. The color red is a recurring motif, which has various uses in Deep End. Red appears in the opening scene as Mike paints his bike. It is of great significance as Mike uses his bike to stalk Susan when his obsession over her grows. Red has connotations with desire and lust, which Mike’s bike represents. Red also has connotations with anger and danger, which are emotions Susan stirred in others. When Susan exchanges derogatory remarks with the receptionist, a maintenance worker begins to paint the wall red. The wall painted red symbolically reveals Susan’s destructive behavior. Susan’s destructive behavior acts as symbolism in her death scene as her collapse into the water is juxapositioned with red paint falling into the swimming pool. The red paint falling into the swimming pool adds an eerie atmosphere of Susan’s death, which is caused by destructive emotions.
Deep End‘s use of colors is also used to the characters’ advantage. Susan uses color to entice Mike by regularly wearing a yellow coat. Yellow is a color Susan uses to deliberately make herself stand out. Susan wears her yellow coat when Mike follows her to the cinema, leading to the pivotal scene. Susan wears her yellow coat again when meeting the male swimming teacher, during a time when Mike’s obsession becomes increasingly deranged. As a result, Mike follows Susan again with disastrous results. Susan continues to orchestrate these disastrous results by wearing a black bikini while having lunch with Mike. Susan’s black bikini makes her stand out, enticing Mike and other teenage boys nearby. The teenage boys making their attraction known to Susan is exactly her intention, igniting Mike’s angry response as she enjoys manipulating him.
Deep End representing sex as manipulation through characterisation and symbolic use of color contains enormously emotional and visual power. Deep End‘s use of characterisation in contrasting Susan’s deceitful cunning to Mike’s naivety, along with their individual experiences, evokes sexual behavior as destructive. Mike’s personality becoming increasingly deranged to the point of murder is a predictable consequence for Susan’s manipulation of sexual behavior. Deep End‘s central theme extends into its symbolic use of color, where a character’s emotions or metaphorical implications is visually provocative. Deep End should be seen as a cautionary tale of sexual manipulating behavior which leads to tragic consequences, which is conveyed with contextual and symbolic power.
1. Scovell., A. 2014. ‘Deep End (1970) and the Musical Emphasising of Narrative (Jerzy Skolimowski)’. Celluloidwickerman.com. [Online][Accessed From] – http://celluloidwickerman.com/2014/01/16/deep-end-1970-and-the-musical-emphasising-of-narrative-jerzy-skolimowski/
2. Brown., S., Street., S. and Watkins., L. 2013. Color and the Moving Image: History, Theory, Aesthetics, Archive. Routledge.
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