Film Review: A Bigger Splash (2015)
By Belle McIntyre
His intentions are clear in the title of Luca Guadagnino’s latest ﬁlm, A Bigger Splash, which reunites his muse Tilda Swinton and cinematographer, Yorick Le Saux, from I Am Love. The title is from a David Hockney painting of his California swimming pool - one of his favorite locations which provided a perfect backdrop for paintings of his life and friends as they frolicked in and around the pool. Similarly, much of the meaningful action in this ﬁlm happens in and around a pool and, unsurprisingly, involves rivalry. This pool belongs to a villa on the picturesque island Pantelleria, off the coast of Sicily, which has been rented by Paul and Marianne. Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) a ﬁlmmaker, and Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) a famous rock star have taken this secluded aerie as a retreat from the world so that Marianne, who has recently had throat surgery and must not speak, can recover and regain her voice and her career.
Their blissful idyll of sun, surf, uninhibited sex and nudity with whispered endearments is jarringly interrupted by the unexpected invasion of the agressively manic Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes), a rock music producer and Marianne’s ex-lover. He has arrived unannounced with his newly discovered daughter, a Lolita-esque scantily-clad sulky blond teenager, Penelope (Dakota Johnson). Marianne unwisely insists they stay with them in the villa. Harry’s obnoxious, loud exuberance and over-the-top drinking, drug-taking and provocative behavior are anything but therapeutic especially to Paul, who is himself, in recovery, and is really trying to take care of Marianne. That Harry is trouble is obvious from the start. As their complicated histories are revealed it becomes clear that Harry is jealous of Paul and Marianne’s current relationship and Paul is jealous of Marianne’s past with Harry. As Harry tries to get Marianne back, Penelope is working her nubile charms on Paul. A recipe for disaster, which inevitably comes when things go terribly wrong. No spoilers from me. Sufﬁce it to say that the plotting is sketchy and fairly unconvincing.
These are high quality tasty ingredients. Tilda Swinton is so imminently watchable, without uttering a word. The way she moves and inhabits her skin and wears (or not) her clothes, and how the camera loves her unadorned face and close cropped hair is pure pleasure. Matthias Schoenaerts’ Paul projects a wounded, furtive, internalized protectiveness. Fiennes steals the ﬁlm with high-energy scenery chewing, including an amazing moment when he channels Mick Jagger singing Emotional Rescue. There is so much great stuff but the story seems too thin to carry it all and it ends up being an unsavory stew albeit a very good-looking one.
Film Still Courtesy of Luca Guadagnino
Imagery © Luca Guadagnino
Article © Belle McIntyre