Film Review: “A Bigger Splash”

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A Bigger Splash, 2015
dir. Luca Guadagnino


Well, that happened. A Bigger Splash follows power couple Marianne (Tilda Swinton), who is a rock star recovering from throat surgery, and Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), a documentarian, in their Italian holiday as they are interrupted by the past in the form of Harry (Ralph Fiennes), a record producer and an old friend of the couple’s, as well as his daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson), who is yet another aloof yet sexy teenager who, and I quote, “falls in love with pretty things.” Barf.

There isn’t much of a plot to it, it’s mostly trying to understand these characters, what they want from each other, and how they behave in different combinations. We get a few flashbacks that add very little meaning to the overall story, and we spend far too much time on Penelope who is probably the most annoying character I’ve encountered this year in a film. She’s just too cool, she reads by the pool with vintage sunglasses on, wears loose combat boots with high-waisted short shorts and a see-through vest, she doesn’t brush her hair, and she smokes. She’s just the coolest girl in the whole world, and the final moment of humanity they give her in her last scene does not redeem her utter lack of any character whatsoever.

Marianne, Paul, and Harry’s interactions are interesting enough, also thrumming with a sort of tension that I think would have been more gripping without the presence of the daughter, which makes the whole situation look too much like Swimming Pool, only more bland. Their acting is wonderful, though. Swinton and Fiennes are masterful as always, and have wonderful chemistry onscreen, while Schoenaerts is kind of a revelation because it’s very different from the roles I’ve seen him in lately, and his American accent is pretty decent.

What the film does really well is present naked bodies very matter-of-factly, while almost fetishising certain aspects of it with the clothes on — the men’s chests as they get out of the pool, Marianne’s legs on the table. It’s both demure and decadent, and the warmth of the saturated images really adds to the sensuality of it.

The camera work is very neat as well. It’s very playfully directed, and whips about sometimes, while panning others and closing up on unimportant things. The images in this film feel very fresh and beautiful, accompanied by a wonderful score and a great soundtrack. I only wish we’d heard more of Marianne’s music, because it sounds an awful lot like Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust era stuff, which is of course wonderful.

Overall, I liked it well-enough, but some things really fell flat for me and it did not meet my expectations for this much-talked about film.

review by Mariana Duarte




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