Deep Water: I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me, by David Bax
There’s a reason Adrian Lyne’s tales of infidelity, jealousy and danger–like Fatal Attraction, Unfaithful and the excellent new Deep Water–unfold against a backdrop of upper crust luxury and materialism. More than one reason, actually. First off, if we’re going to watch beautiful people fuck and hurt each other, why not go all in and make the clothing, furniture, real estate and all other trappings just as much a treat for the eyes? We’re indulging a version of the same vicarious wish fulfillment that has always made mass entertainment out of the lives of the very wealthy. On the other hand, though, there’s also a kind of pleasure we take in watching those who have it all destroy themselves. That mix of aspiration and vindictiveness is contradictory in a way that perfectly fits Deep Water, a film that draws many of its kinky thrills from the push and pull of impulses like shame, ecstasy, rage, etc., all crashing against each other.
And yet Deep Water never feels overheated or forced in the extremity of its emotions. Lyne’s assured patience as a filmmaker means he never has to push to get his cast or his other aesthetic tools to replicate the feelings he wants. Instead, he trusts in his actors and material and simply waits like a fisherman for the moods and moments to present themselves. He’s not showing us his characters’ inner lives so much as he’s discovering them along with us.
Of course, this is a movie about sex and possession so it’s just as sensual as it is psychological. Obviously, there are plenty of hands and bodies pressing up against each other in various states of undress. But the senses are engaged in other ways, too. The heavy air of New Orleans, often thick with the strains of live music, is enveloping. And a scene in which Melinda (Ana de Armas) shares an apple with her husband, Vic (Ben Affleck), is as sexy as any illicit tryst depicted in the movie.
But Melinda and Vic’s marriage is not, in the traditional sense, in good shape. They sleep apart and their home life is more about co-parenting their young daughter than about the affection between them. Meanwhile, Melinda has a series of boyfriends that she takes no pains to hide from Vic. Her interest in her husband only seems to be piqued on the rare occasions when the normally reserved man shows a flash of jealous anger. “Look how assertive you’ve become,” she coos when he confronts her directly. In Deep Water, the confused confluence of passion, jealousy and manliness are animating forces even among the so-very-civilized private schools and cocktail parties set.
Most of the time, though, Vic is not the type of person who would describe himself as an “alpha male.” He may look like Affleck and be fabulously (yet tastefully) well-off, but he made his fortune writing software and spends his free time raising snails (which Lyne and cinematographer Eigil Bryld shoot in hypnotic, neon-coated close-ups).
In short, he’s a nerd in the body of a Master of the Universe. The resultant insecurities are a breeding ground for his (and the movie’s) kinks. Deep Water is a movie about voyeurism and exhibitionism; shame and power; watching, being watched and, most excitingly, the risk of being caught watching, a thrill that extends to us. We’re watching too, after all.