Verdict: 2.5 / 5
Lingering danger is ever present in this promiscuous splash pool. As remake of the 1969 drama La Piscine, A Bigger Splash sticks to the same plot, with a few minor changes.
Rock star Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) retreats to the island of Pantelleria, Italy with longtime partner Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts). After an operation on her vocal chords, Marianne has to refrain from speaking to ensure a full recovery. She receives a phone call out of the blue from a former lover and producer Harry (Ralph Fiennes) announcing his arrival uninvited. Much to their surprise, he brought along his teenage daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson), who he only found out existed a year ago.
Swinton is fantastic in her portrayal. There is such a distinct presence with her on screen, which few can demand without dialogue. She is so graceful yet purposeful in every gesture and the selective hoarse whispers.
Harry has the worst case of verbal diarrhoea, one wonders how much Fiennes annoyed himself during the study of all those lines. It’s admittedly not a character you’d typically attach to Fiennes, but he really steals the show, which is appropriate as Harry constantly wants the spotlight on him. From the start, he peacocks thinking Marianne’s affections for him will be reawakened. It is childish, yet everyone seems to tolerate it. He regrets introducing Paul to her and does whatever he can to feed on his weaknesses. The filmmaker remains passive out of respect for Marianne, but the tension is reaching a dangerous level.
Meanwhile, Penelope’s presence doesn’t help much. She serves as a nymph figure, blatantly making her desires clear to Paul, who with great difficulty has to deny her – but for how long?
Being named after the David Hockney painting, and like La Piscine, most of the scenes and the action is located by the pool or near water. Water has a way of looking so inviting as it glistens against the desert-like backdrop, constantly moving and providing instant gratification. However, the tides can quickly change – all this applies to our four characters.
There is much left unsaid and the power struggle lends itself to a farce at times. It lacks the emotional beats you’d expect in a plot such as this. It’s what years of theatre and film has seen, yet it feels a bit dethatched. The camera work is also strange at times. Perhaps, it’s a more art house style, but it’s not consistent or motivated. A Bigger Splash does drag a bit and the ending is unsatisfying, even if the performances are note worthy.
If you are sensitive to nudity, you might want to take the age restriction seriously. A Bigger Splash is definitely a mixed feel film. You’ll either love it or give a skip. With so many nominations and awards, it really boils down to individual taste. You decide.