Did you think I was here for the capers?’ asks Harry (Ralph Fiennes), bemused that Marianne (Tilda Swinton) cannot see the proverbial wood through the trees. Marianne sees perfectly well, though; she just chooses to exist parallel to reality, acknowledging without engaging.
A Bigger Splash works best as the psycho-sexual drama it spends ninety percent of its time exploring with unrelentingly entertaining results. But director Luca Guadagnino casts his net further, though with mixed results. The relevance of his film’s politics might feel loosely tethered to its story, but both elements hold rich rewards for audiences.
“working best as the psycho-sexual drama, it spends ninety percent of its time exploring with unrelentingly entertaining results”
Marianne Lane is a rock & roll idol, recovering from throat surgery on the Italian island of Pantelleria with her lover, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts). Suddenly, former producer/lover Harry Hawkes arrives with his daughter, Penelope (Dakota Johnson). Their villa soon becomes the crucible where the four are pitted against one another; smiling through gritted teeth, brandishing knives behind their backs. The simmering tension takes place during shifting socio-political climates, as Italy is inundated with migrants.
A Bigger Splash shines when its punchy dialogue and frisky performances (particularly from the eccentric Fiennes) mix into a prickly cocktail of dramatic tension. These characters are modern monsters, products of their ephemeral lifestyles, and the audience is never encouraged to sympathise with them. Guadagnino deconstructs their personalities carefully, gradually exploring the contrast between their personal plights and the plights of those around them. The brilliant script flourishes in the first two acts, and while the ending is a little heavy handed, it is tough not to respect the though-provoking intentions.
Dehumanising celebrities like the media and conceited public dehumanise migrants is a bold theme to take on half-heartedly, but A Bigger Splash has a pool of breezy humour, searing vistas and thrilling suspense to back itself up.
More like this: L’Avventura (1960)