An alluring, and at times, erotically-charged work that sees some extremely fine acting by its quartet of star performers.
Dir. Luca Guadagnino
2015 | Italy | Drama | 125 mins | 1.85:1 | English & Italian
M18 (passed clean) for graphic nudity, some strong sexual content, language and brief drug use
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson
Plot: The vacation of a famous rock star and her boyfriend in Italy is disrupted by the unexpected visit of an old friend and his daughter.
Awards: Won Best Innovative Budget Award & Soundtrack Stars Award, and Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice)
International Sales: Studiocanal
Subject Matter: Moderate/Slightly Mature
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
(Reviewed on CatchPlay)
Strangely, it took six years for Luca Guadagnino to make another fiction feature, after the well-received I Am Love (2009) provided him with an artistic springboard to leap higher. In between, he seemingly detoured, having made a few shorts and two feature-length documentaries. If anything, A Bigger Splash carries on the promise of I Am Love as it lays out with style what the film is going to be like from the onset.
It is a fun movie to experience, full of energy and chemistry as possessed abundantly by its quartet of star performers, whose own personal narratives are freewheeling in their own intuitive ways that you can’t help but feel a sense of inevitability, that for all the excitement and despair they are on course for an extremely nasty collision at some point in time.
“We’re all obscene. Everyone’s obscene. That’s the whole fucking point. We see it and we love each other anyway.”
With a cast this good—featuring the great Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes, and the emerging Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead, 2011; Far from the Madding Crowd, 2015) and Dakota Johnson (at the height of her Fifty Shades of Grey fame) at that point in time, A Bigger Splash is as much an actor’s movie as it is a work about ‘acting’.
These characters put up some kind of façade for others to see, but deep inside there is an insufferable desire to want to know thyself. Swinton’s Marianne is a famous rock star who could command tens of thousands of fans, but what she really wants is an unassuming and quiet life.
Her lover, Paul (Schoenaerts), is a brooding figure with a dark past. The couple, on a private retreat, is visited by Marianne’s ex-lover-cum-music producer, Harry (Fiennes in a delectable performance against type), and his seductive daughter, Penelope (Johnson).
“To be a genius is to be unruled. To be unruled is to be alone.”
Guadagnino lets it all play out naturally… during dinner, by the pool, over an evening stroll—one could possibly argue that his work here would prefigure the stylistic and thematic choices made in his next (even more exquisite) film, Call Me By Your Name (2017), where a similar undercurrent of love, lust and eroticism is captured, and so are the implications that could undermine the relational dynamics of the people caught in its complex web.
One might, however, find the film’s tone somewhat lackadaisical handled as plot developments threaten to alter a casual atmosphere into something more serious on a whim, but the cast deliver when it matters the most.