A Bigger Splash
dir Luca Guadagnino
scr David Kajganich
prd Michael Costigan, Luca Guadagnino
with Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Dakota Johnson, Aurore Clement, Lily McMenamy, Corrado Guzzanti, Elena Bucci
release It 26.Nov.15, UK 12.Feb.16, US 13.May.16
15/Italy StudioCanal 2h00
A Bigger Splash
Rekindling a spark? Fiennes and Swinton

schoenaerts johnson clement
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
A Bigger Splash A remake of the 1969 French classic La Piscine, this is a fresh, enjoyably twisted drama about a group of people whose lives are inextricably entangled. With fine performances from the eclectic cast and the striking visual stylings of director Luca Guadagnino, this is a fast, funny little romp. And it carries a surprisingly nasty sting in its tail.

Recovering from vocal-chord surgery, iconic rock goddess Marianne (Swinton) holes up on the isolated Italian island of Pantelleria with her long-time boyfriend Paul (Schoenaerts). Then their naked solace is interrupted by the arrival of her boisterous ex, record producer Harry (Fiennes), who arrives with his surly daughter Penelope (Johnson). Despite the jovial atmosphere, there are all kinds of tensions between these people, exacerbated by Harry's attempts to turn this quiet idyll into party central. He also seems determined to get Marianne back after all these years. While Penelope launches a flirt offensive on Paul.

Fiennes is on fire in this role, hyperactively charging through every scene, flinging off his clothing while chattering on about seemingly nothing. Which of course pushes everyone's buttons. He cleverly reveals Harry's true motives along the way, building a gurgling tension with Swinton, Schoenaerts and Johnson, who also cleverly underplay the dramas going on between them. All four of these actors are terrific at suggesting a character's secret agenda, sometimes one they don't even know they have.

The setting adds to the atmosphere with the parched coastal landscapes and a life lived largely outdoors with quick dips into pools or the sea to cool off. There are also a few outings, to a village festival and an isolated pond. All of this adds an almost primal kick to everything that happens. Even the food they eat feels ancient. In other words, humans haven't changed much, and it's easy to imagine prehistoric cave dwellers engaging in exactly the same story.

This is a drama about fundamental emotions like love and jealousy, the yearning for something you had and lost, worries about the future and the fear of losing the good things you have now. And there's also a remarkably astute look at the artificial power of celebrity. All of these things resonate through every scene, which makes the film play out on an almost subliminal way. Nothing about this film is easily categorised or explained, but the way it explores the precarious balance that exists inside all of us is hard to shake.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, violence, drugs 8.Oct.15

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