Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes are on flamboyant, imperious form in A Bigger Splash, a smouldering melodrama set in a sun-scorched villa on the volcanic Sicilian island of Pantelleria.
Swinton is Marianne, a stadium rock star hiding out there with her younger filmmaker partner Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) while she recuperates from an operation on her vocal chords. And Fiennes is her former lover Harry, the brash, roiling, larger-than-life figure who invades her retreat with his newly discovered American daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson) in tow. Soon enough, desires and jealousies are simmering in the Mediterranean haze.
Eerie languor and sun-baked hedonism
Reuniting Swinton with Italian director Luca Guadagnino, maker of 2009’s lush romance I Am Love, A Bigger Splash is a remake of Jacques Deray’s 1969 film La Piscine, which found Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Maurice Ronet and Jane Birkin similarly entangled in the south of France. There’s a nod, too, in the film’s title to David Hockney’s celebrated 1967 painting.
Guadagnino’s movie shares with them a mood of eerie languor and sun-baked hedonism. Which makes the disruptive energy provided by Fiennes’ exuberant and garrulous interloper all the more startling. Swinton makes a worthy foil for him, nearly mute for half the film but vitally expressive all the same.
Certificate 15. Runtime 124 mins. Director Luca Guadagnino