“Europe is a graveyard,” says a music producer before proceeding to urinate on a grave, on the island of Pantelleria, in Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash. That music producer is played, with gleeful annoyingness, by Ralph Fiennes. The producer and his spiteful daughter (Dakota Johnson)—he’s only been aware that she is his daughter for a year—crash the island getaway of an ex-flame, a superstar singer (Tilda Swinton), and her taciturn, sober boyfriend (Matthias Schoenaerts). Ironically or not, the singer has just had an operation on her vocal cords, so Tilda Swinton spends most of the movie speaking hoarsely, or not speaking at all, using her eyes and gestures to emote. Escapades, flirtations, and possibly dalliances ensue as the movie shifts from lightness to darkness without becoming maudlin or overwrought, even if the ending is a little corny. Working with DP Yorick Le Saux and editor Walter Fasano, Guadagnino creates a sumptuous, sensuous, voyeuristic, freewheeling, feverish, and flamboyant style that immerses us in each scene, as the camera darts from person to person, or intensely closes-up on barely covered flesh. Because the setting is in the Mediterranean, there’s also a political dimension to A Bigger Splash, with migrants appearing here and there. But their plight is only obliquely mentioned: The migrant crisis may be making the headlines, but rich people problems make a bigger splash in this movie.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White