Initially Tilda Swinton wanted to turn down her role in A Bigger Splash. She was reeling from the recent death of her mother and she could find no words to describe her pain. In the end she accepted the role, and suggested that her character “Marianne Lane”, should be a rock star suddenly unable to use her voice – a musical icon facing the loss of her career. This was a brilliant choice and reflected Swinton’s personal tragedy. The character seems to conjure up the spirit of David Bowie. In fact, Swinton had done a music video with Bowie in 2013 where the resemblance between the two is eerie as she mirrors him. The January death of Bowie adds weight to Marianne’s story.
A Bigger Splash is a universal tale evoking classical myths of the Greco/Roman Gods.
Three of the characters in the film rarely speak yet convey layers of emotion. “Penelope”, played with superb skill and sensitivity by Dakota Johnson, is immature, spontaneous and bored. She is the catalyst who throws “bombs” into the mix just to see what will blow up. Ralph Fiennes is fascinating as the hyperactive, passionate music producer who commands every space he enters and never stops moving – or talking. Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts perfectly creates a difficult role in cinematographer “Paul” – watchful, quietly reflective yet innately powerful.
Personalities have infinite algorithms in their makeup. This film shows that it is the constantly fluctuating balance that is all-important in human nature, especially with complex people. It is no accident that this foursome of emotionally charged, dramatic and sparkling lives is deposited in a desolate, remote Mediterranean volcanic island halfway between Sicily and Africa. This rugged and raw coastal outcropping is a world away from their customary surroundings. Their psyches are laid bare like the environment. The sand-blown sirocco winds from Africa bring them back to dust, and snakes that seem to appear on trails without warning reflect fear and temptation. Director Luca Guadagnino and inematographer Yorick LeSaux capture the beauty and desolation of both temperaments and surroundings.
A Bigger Splash begins with the cadence of a float down a “lazy river” in an inner tube, with a European sensibility of timelessness and subtlety. The story is based on the French New Wave film classic La Piscine (1969) and the title is taken from a David Hockney painting that seems to reflect a pool of treacherous and hidden emotion. The pace of the film is much slower than what most urban Americans are accustomed to – the rhythm of our lives is so hectic it’s hard to slow down. Watching this movie will be a rewarding exercise. I suggest you settle in and get to know the players in this very truthful study of four colorful and passionate people. They are so well drawn by the actors that you will probably see a lot of yourself and your friends in them. If you are patient, they will get under your skin – they will haunt you long after you’ve left the theatre.
Released May 4th
Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. firstname.lastname@example.org. For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com/