A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Luca Guadagnino
Produced By: Michael Costigan, Luca Guadagnino, Sonya Lunsford
Written By: David Kajganich
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson, Matthias Schoenaerts
Running Time: 124 Minutes
Director Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love) has presented us with a serene and gorgeous getaway to the Mediterranean island of Pantelleria, Italy; an idillic spot for reclusiveness and relaxation.
What he has also presented us with is a disturbing love quadrangle of sorts, delving into dynamics between young and old, the past and the present, and the overall deception of integrity.
His first feature in seven years, Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash has a style to it, a sheen, a vibrance that acts as an extension of its central characters’ vanity and overtly self-indulgent nature. In what is more or less a two-hour vacation with a plot line tacked on towards the beginning of the third act, A Bigger Splash still has its fair share of redeemable qualities, however they mostly come from the exploration of Ralph Fiennes’ Harry Hawkes.
With Tilda Swinton unable to speak and Dakota Johnson and Matthias Schoenaerts having the combined emotional range a tree stump, there isn’t much else apart from some gorgeous scenery to attract attention.
Focusing on Swinton’s Marianne Lane, a former rockstar who has been left a mute due to constant strain on her voice and a recent operation, A Bigger Splash explores the resurfacing of the past as she and her younger documentarian partner Paul De Smedt (Schoenaerts) are visited by an old friend and his daughter.
Harry Hawkes (Fiennes) and daughter Penelope Lanier (Johnson) bring a burst of excitement and energy into the couple’s lives and with mostly harmonious results. With four free spirits galavanting around the stunning Italian landscapes drinking wine, playing records and reminiscing about the past, a warm and vibrant feeling is in the air.
As their visit begins to drag on however, secrets are exchanged, the past is revisited and tension begins to manifest itself in a subtle manner.
The only problem here is that the film focuses so heavily on the charismatic Fiennes’ Hawkes far more than his co-stars, resulting in little connection to their motives, circumstances and actions.
The film is ultimately about a former lover attempting to disrupt the other’s peaceful vacation in order to win her back, however with the exception of Hawkes, the only character who has any striking qualities, the remaining elements simply aren’t that interesting.
Although shot very well with a glimmering sense of striking discontent, certain choppy edits that punch in, speed up and montage sequences become jarring and unexpected. There is an inconsistency here, and while the stylistic approaches may be memorable in hindsight, they’re sadly memorable for the wrong reasons.
Where the cinematography does work however is with certain naturalistic sequences that showcase the breathtaking scenery in all its paradisal glory.
Lens flares from the vibrant sun, booming colours from the rich Mediterranean sky and even the popping of the characters’ facial features as they’re occasionally placed in the centre of frame looking down the barrel to replicate the point of view of another; these examples work considerably well in the grand scheme of things as they heighten the remoteness and extend the tranquility, however with the often unnerving score placed over the top of these images, an all together different tone can be felt.
Had this have been a consistent element in the film however, A Bigger Splash could very well have been a stylish and sexy mystery thriller with some genuine tension pulsating throughout the entire runtime.
With an element of isolation, claustrophobia and a slow burn thrown in to unsettle the four central characters, the potential was there, however the focus was elsewhere for too long.
Helmed by a stellar Ralph Fiennes and a satisfactory Swinton who still manages to outshine the two supporting cast members without saying a word (mostly), A Bigger Splash is an otherwise flat and mostly uninteresting piece that decides to build momentum far too late in the game.
The style jarringly chops and changes throughout, rendering the overall atmosphere inconsistent and slightly confusing, however the appearance of the film is not entirely lacking some redeemable and visually interesting qualities.
For all it’s overt style and self-indulgence, the film is ultimately one of love lost and somebody trying to move on. It creates several tense dynamics between its characters that offer some momentary unease, however the unprogressive brunt of the narrative leaves the splash far too late.