A Bigger Splash


Based on the 1969 French film La Piscine, A Bigger Splash is a very sensual drama that evolves into a slow-burn thriller full of seduction and deception. Tilda Swinton plays a famous David Bowie-esque rock star named Marianne recuperating from a throat surgery with her younger boyfriend Paul played by Matthias Schoenaerts on the Italian island of Pantelleria. Their tranquility is unexpectedly interrupted by the arrival of Marianne’s former lover Harry portrayed by Ralph Fiennes and beautiful young daughter Penelope portrayed by Dakota Johnson. What follows is a clash of personalities and love interests that starts amicably on the surface but eventually descends into darkness. A quintessential player with intoxicating energy and mischief, Harry stirs up the past, visualized through the film’s flashbacks to his troubled romance with Marianne. His intentions and reason for being there is left murky for much of the film. Further complicating things is Penelope, a Lolita-type character, who flirts with and tries to seduce the young and handsome Paul who has his own past demons. The movie creates a perfect atmosphere for the palpable tension percolating until literally splashing over at the plot’s climax. Pantelleria is a small volcanic island that, although stunningly beautiful, gives a rustic, almost ominous vibe with its dry and barren landscape. The rocky terrain reflects the increasingly rocky relationships between the four characters. As tensions escalate, the island is also beset by strong Sirocco winds and rainstorms. All at the same time, the score dramatically shifts into much more menacing music and finally with a operatic crescendo at the most intense scene. The film’s exploration of human desire and jealousy is accentuated by the terrific acting from the four principal actors. It is anchored by Tilda Swinton who exudes an otherworldly aura despite her character rarely speaking. Following his real life playboy reputation, Ralph Fiennes gives a raw performance as a hedonistic rabble-rouser living on the edge. The younger actors equally impressed, including Dakota Johnson who is ironically more sultry than her role in Fifty Shades of Grey. Overall, the film was a high-quality erotic thriller exhibiting the hallmarks of a foreign flick with a permissive attitude and emphasis on first-rate acting.

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