A Bigger Splash
A Bigger Splash
2016. Directed by Luca Guadagnino.
Sun drenched bodies on forbidden beaches. Nascent, stolen glances amidst wine soaked dinners. Cocaine and memories of what could have been. These are the ingredients in the hemlock cocktail that is A Bigger Splash.
A Bowie-esque rock singer and her long time partner seek to recover on a small Italian island after she loses her voice. Their steamy, extravagant get away is interrupted when the singer's old flame and producer, a lecherous hedon, and his estranged puerile daughter arrive uninvited. What follows is a nostalgia fueled drama of quiet erotic fury.
Tilda Swinton is the rock star in a near mute performance. The amount of depth she displays with only a handful of lines easily obliterates even the strongest of female leads working today. The range that she is able to communicate purely with body language is close to being the greatest thing about this film. It comes a far second to Ralph Fiennes' super sonic sleazy turn as the old flame. Fiennes is without restraint in every scene, bouncing from lunatic rock and roll has-been, to soulful ex lover in the blink of eye. The love he harbors for Swinton is merely an extension of his narcissism and the poor illusions he builds around himself to conceal this are often hilarious and frightening simultaneously. Fiennes and Swinton's chemistry is an unstable mix of undeniable attraction and blistering reproach that every interaction between dwarfs anything else that transpires.
Matthew Schoenaertz gives yet another strong performance as the current boyfriend. Easily the most relatable character, Schoenaertz does an excellent job at showing the perils of navigating the current/ex lover landscape, trying to maintain the moral high ground while temptation lurks around every corner. The temptation is embodied in Dakota Johnson who delivers the performance of her career as the bikini clad fatale, threatening to bring the entire house of cards to ruin with her raw sexual energy and quiet, longing stares.
Alan Page's script (based on La Piscine) is a double edged sword. This story is a whisper of a nightmare. It's a quiet film, whose cosmetic tranquility is routinely questioned by Fiennes' scrapyard in a blender bravado. Everything is left to the viewer to discern. Almost nothing is explained and this may not work for everyone, but I found it's lack of resolution comforting. This is a messy story about messy, irrevocably broken people who are so privileged they don't see it, and nor would they care to. There are undercurrents of a refugee crisis, a hilarious satire of law enforcement and the wealthy, but most importantly, the story is about the four hearts that are stapled to the billboard. The fact that the audience is a voyeur is not subtle. The sex scenes are hot and emotionally taxing and each sequence leaves you waiting for the next. Nudity is in no short supply, bolstering the raw unprotected characters' plights as they swim around one another in a predatory dance.
Yorick Le Saux's cinematography is to die for. It's aided by the physical location, but the mastery of scene setting and framing of emotional devastation is an example to be followed. Without Le Saux's gifted command, Swinton's entire character would be lost in the shuffle. There are bright vivid colors everywhere on the island and skin that is bared is given a golden, forbidden tone by the lighting. Giulia Piersanti's costume design is fresh and enticing. evoking a dangerous sense of casual desire in the central quartet. These are people who are so confident in themselves, even the simplest of outfits makes them objects of covet.
Available now on digital, A Bigger Splash is an amazing and destructive film that spends the first three quarters jack hammering into its subjects hearts. In the end, it stops long before achieving it's goal and opts to let the narrative bleed out into the crystal oceans that surround the island, forsaking any sense of explanation in favor of a holistic view of the carnage, in which each of the players is a guilty participant..
If you're looking for gorgeous people, complete moral abandon and a lack of resolution that leaves it up to you, you can't go wrong with A Bigger Splash.
Highly, Highly. Recommend.