The once sleepy island of Pantelleria is a fragment of Italy, lying between Sicily and Tunisia. Due to its proximity to the latter, these days it is a stepping off point for refugees from Africa in the quest for a new life. ‘A Bigger Splash’ is set at the time when a trickle had begun, but was yet to become the flood it is today.
Paul, played by Belgium’s pride, ‘Rust and Bone’s’ flavour of the month, Matthias Schoenaerts, has come to the island looking for a quiet break with older lover Marianne (Tilda Swinton). She is recovering from an op on her vocal chords. It is a tribute to the actress that the script gives her necessarily little to say, but she conveys all she needs to through overt facial expression, pantomime and some occasional hoarse whisperings. It is a stellar performance. You see the lady is a former rock goddess, a Bowiesque chameleon. In her pomp, she played to seething stadiums. Paul is not too happy when she receives a call from her ex-lover Harry (Ralph Fiennes), saying he is on his way and bringing a surprise to boot. He knows Harry’s form. He knows he still carries a candle for Marianne and that she hasn’t quite got him out of her system. He knows the island’s quietude will disappear as Harry is full-on. Past fifty, he still disports himself as if he was half that age, with all the accompanying indulgences. And he is a motor-mouth of the first order. Paul knows the patience he will need to get through Harry’s visit will have to be extreme.
The surprise turns out to be a young-ish lass who may, or may not be, Harry’s long lost daughter. She looks every bit of her supposed twenty-four years and the affection between daughter and dad, to put it mildly, seems somewhat unhealthy to all concerned. But Penelope’s eyes soon alight on Paul and you just know this girl, played by ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’s’ Dakota Johnson, has some mayhem in mind with people’s affections .
All four of the main players are required to get their kit off for this outing. Whilst the others are somewhat more circumspect, Fiennes wanders around starkers at the drop of a hat, so to speak. Swinton is far more mesmerising– that alien face of hers is really something and for me, watching her, is the film’s highlight. That and Fiennes’ Sir Mick Jagger parody. The Stones feature quite prominently in ‘A Bigger Splash,’ on several levels.
As it all goes belly-up for our quartet the offering does outstay its welcome somewhat. Paul and Harry have their inevitable squaring-off and for me, after all that was done with, well that was the place to tie it all together and roll the credits. But no, there’s an investigation to be done by the local police, with the inspector in charge plainly starstruck by a famous celebrity being involved. At this point it lost some of it’s attraction for this viewer.
Director Luca Guadagnino certainly knows how to ramp up the hedonistic inclinations of Harry and his back-in-the-day squeeze. And, on top of all the other inter-personal machinations, we discover there may have been a little something going on between Harry and Paul, once upon a time, as well. This movie is an enjoyable experience as it transforms itself from something of a romp into a tale with more bite to it. The sun-dappledness of the cinematography is an asset and I did appreciate a more engaging performance in this from Ralph F than in the lamentable ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ – although I am sure many would beg to disagree.
And how do we interpret the film’s title. Well that might not be quite as obvious as it seems.
Trailer for the movie = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mOVgI0-pb4