27 June 2016

DVD Review - A Bigger Splash

Following on from the acclaimed I Am Love in 2009, Italian director Luca Guadagnino reunited with his leading lady Tilda Swinton and gathered a stellar cast to create A Bigger Splash, a tense thriller with a perfect balance of style and substance.

The film’s premise is simple- Swinton plays a rock star, almost mute from recent vocal surgery, holidaying on a remote Italian island with her filmmaker boyfriend Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts). Basking in each other is their reality, until old flame and music producer Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes) and his newly discovered adult daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson) arrive to completely unhinge the balance.

Every shot, every character and every fascinating relationship is a second from exploding. The film begins playfully, with Ralph Fiennes on particular fine form. An actor who proved his comedic chops in The Grand Budapest Hotel after a career of villains or tortured Byronic heroes, this film offers him something even better. Harry is all bluster, a physical man who expresses himself through dancing to the Rolling Stones. He initially comes across as fun but Fiennes’ well-established menace is kept close to the surface- whether Harry is stripping naked, filling up a fridge with beer to taunt recovering alcoholic Paul or participating in tense swimming races, every action is a challenge of power.

Schoenearts and Johnson also give fine performances, although Johnson's character doesn’t offer much to work with. However, it’s Tilda Swinton’s character that remains utterly compelling. The inspired idea of having Marianne almost silent after a career of deafening sound makes her placement in an environment of noise even more intoxicating. Swinton has always been the kind of actress that is utterly compelling to watch and it's unsurprising that even as the quietest one in a room of chaos, she’s the one your eyes are drawn to.

Guadagnino’s choice to focus on each pairing with delicate balance and flashbacks offer the kind of insight that stays with you long after the film. You don’t just wonder why things are tense between Paul and Harry, or between Marianne and Penelope- you discover and then it’s time to watch what happens. The ending isn’t a huge twist but it’s still a satisfying end to a story that has thrown these characters together and let them combust.

A Bigger Splash isn’t afraid to utilise imagery either- a snake keeps making its way to their patio, being calmly evicted but always returning. The idea of constant threat works alongside the concept of everything being torn apart, as character dissect food with a surgeon’s precision. Everything is stunningly filmed too, giving it an almost 50s-esque feel at times that works perfectly with the more modern features of a lot of nudity and swearing.

A Bigger Splash is a film to lose yourself in, to examine every shot and minute facial expression with magnified concentration. With perfect performances by actors at the top of their game, it’s gorgeous, sexy and it sweeps you up with complete, impressive ease.

★★★★★ | Jen Scouler

Crime, Drama, Mystery | Italy, 2015 | 15 | Studiocanal | 27th June 2016 (UK) | Dir.Luca Guadagnino | Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson, Matthias Schoenaerts, Aurore Clément | Buy: [Blu-ray]

No comments:

Post a Comment