Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Where & When: Sundance Sunset 5 Cinemas, West Hollywood, CA. May 27, 2016 7:15PM
What begins as an idyllic retreat for a couple in love dissolves in to a volatile harbor due to the unexpected arrival of two troublesome guests in "A Bigger Splash", a vibrant and affecting drama from Italian filmmaker, Luca Guadagnino. Set on the tranquil, remote island of Pantelleria, southwest of Sicily, the melodramatic fireworks that are set off are an erotically-charged explosion of yearning passion, bitter resentments and painful regrets.
Tilda Swinton delivers her otherworldly flair as Marianne Lane, a famous rock performer recovering from throat surgery and advised to keep speech at a minimum. With her handsome lover, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) by her side, they spend their lazy days basting nude in the sun and enjoying each other's bodies. Their peace and solitude comes to a sudden end when Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes), Marianne's boisterous former manager shows up on the island. And he's not alone. Penelope (Dakota Johnson), Harry's mercurial daughter who he hasn't had much contact with, is along for a holiday.
While Harry is there to enjoy good food, dance all night and partake in some heavy-duty partying, a weary Paul is wanting to keep their time together far more low-key. But Marianne gets swept up in Harry's infectiously wild enthusiasm and after he announces they have no place to stay, they suddenly have house guests.
The longer this foursome spends together, secret desires and true intentions are eventually uncovered. Harry had been more than just a business adviser to Marianne and desperately misses their time as a power couple. He had introduced her years ago to Paul when he was working as a photographer. Without any clear details revealed, Paul had a troubled past involving substance abuse which lead to a tragic situation. And Penelope is certainly her father's daughter with a taste for mischief and self-satisfaction.
As Marianne is surrounded by an atmosphere filling with rancor and duress, she remains mostly mute, expressing her frustration through exasperated eyes or a hoarse whisper on occasion. Ms Swinton, looking ravishing in exquisite costumes created for her by designer Raf Simmons, brings a blistering intensity and incendiary sensuality that makes it quite clear why she's such a desirable creature.
Loosely based on the 1969 Jacques Deray film, "La Piscine (the Swimming Pool)", "A Bigger Splash" is that rare erotic thriller that is thoughtful, well-performed, mysterious and actually quite sexy. The crackling script by David Kajganich is filled with intrigue and a sense of dread as these complex characters are unable to be honest with each other or themselves. The camera of cinematographer, Yorick Le Saux gives the film a warm, sun-kissed glow, highlighting the exquisite beauty of the picturesque island and lingering on the overheated, scantily-clad bodies.
We have been so used to seeing Mr. Fiennes in dark and very serious roles for a large part of his career, like the doomed Count in "The English Patient", the murderous Nazi Captain in "Schindler's List" or even the evil Lord Voldemort in the "Harry Potter" films, that it's still a bit of a shock to see the actor lighthearted and smiling on screen. After dazzling us with his zany turn in "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and more recently with a cameo in the Coen Brothers' latest comedy, "Hail Caesar!", it's nice to see him really break loose once again, giving us a show by wildly lip-syncing and attempting to shake his groove thang to the Rolling Stones' "Emotional Rescue" or uninhibitedly stripping at a moment's notice.
Mr. Schoenaerts impresses as a brooding and tormented man of few words yet always able to make himself clearly understood. Even Ms Johnson, who left a lot to be desired with her flat performance in the lame S&M drama, "Fifty Shades of Grey", manages to hold her own with these formidable actors, unexpectedly displaying depth as a cunning seductress.
A jealous rage followed by an accidental death in the final act plunges "A Bigger Splash" in to predictable waters. But a startling revelation and shocking resolution manages to keep this offbeat, warm-blooded thriller afloat. A luxurious and beautifully well-acted relationship study that is ocassionally filled with high tension and a touch of danger, "A Bigger Splash" is a perfect getaway for adults during this summer movie season mostly geared towards younger minds.