‘A Bigger Splash’ fits the definition of ‘art film’ in every sense of the word. It is loosely based on the 1969 movie ‘La Piscine,’ and also on David Hickney’s piece which shares teh same title of the movie. Tilda Swinton plays Marianne Lane, an androgynous-looking rock star (a la David Bowie) who undergoes a surgical procedure for her vocal chords and is spending her time healing and resting in the Italian island of Pantelleria, near Sicily. She is with her companin Paul, a documentary filmmaker played by Matthias Schoeneartes, Their quiet existence is disrupted when Lane’s producer and ex Harry (Ralph Fiennes) arrives with his daughter, Penelope, played by Dakota Johnson, and sexier here than she ever will be in that Grey movie. All this seems to be just a simple story, right? But no, director Luca Guadignino isn’t interested in somethign simple. Here, he creates a world so vivid, so languid that you feel the heat of the Italian sun, and you feel the simmer of all the desires – culinary, sexual, emotional – of these characters.
When I grow up, I want to be Tilda Swinton. She is probably one of the bravest actresses in the world – and she has such a unique vision in what her art should be. I read that she felt that as an actress, she had nothing to say when she was filming this movie, so she requested that her character not be able to talk. In the process, she says more with a stare, a flicker of an eye, a thump if her foot. This is such a unique performance, almost indescribably, assuredly effective. And Ralph Fiennes is fantastic here – a manic, frenetic performance that is supposed to annoy you but will kill you with its charm. And Dakota Johnson proves why she is tops among her generational peers – here she gives a layered sexy performance – coquettish, vulnerable, sly. You could probably watch these performances over and over and uncover layers with each viewing.
The last quarter of the film changes tone, as if from another movie. But by that time you are already so invested in the film, and these characters that you go along, and I felt like taking an anxiety pill with all the twists and turns at the end. I saw this film a day or so ago, and I am still thinking about it – and really, I still cant really figure out how I feel. The film felt like I was awoken from a sleep.