In A BIGGER SPLASH, the lives of a high profile couple, a famous rock star (Tilda Swinton) and a filmmaker (Matthias Schoenaerts), vacationing and recovering on the idyllic sun-drenched and remote Italian island of Pantelleria, are disrupted by the unexpected visit of an old friend (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter (Dakota Johnson) - creating a whirlwind of jealousy, passion and, ultimately, danger for everyone involved.Written by
Before David Kajganich started the first draft of the script, he read every official and unofficial book about The Rolling Stones and watched every official and unofficial documentary about them. He needed to build a space in the factual world of 1990s rock-n-roll that Marianne Lane and Harry Hawkes could have occupied. What Rolling Stones albums, for instance, could Harry have produced. Once he decided that, he found as many first-person accounts of being in the studio during the recording of those songs as he could. Incidentally, he had a very interesting email forwarded to him during prep for the shoo, it was to the film's music supervisor and it was from Mick Jagger. At some point The Rolling Stones read the script. The filmmakers wanted their blessing since they were asking for the rights to some of their music and they gave it to them, but in this email Mick Jagger was asking how Kajganich knew the story Harry tells in the film about recording "Moon Is Up" and having Charlie Watts play a trash can instead of a drum. Kajganich had read the substance of that anecdote in one of Stanley Booth's books about The Rolling Stones. But he'd used it in the script in this sort of ball-out way and was a little concerned at first that Mick Jagger might be annoyed about it, but he couldn't have been more game. He was essentially writing to correct a detail in that scene as Kajganich had written it. Kajganich told that he was very happy to have the adjustment, because you're not going to get a better fact-checker for a story about The Rolling Stones than Mick Jagger. Kajganich also listened almost exclusively to The Rolling Stones for a year. See more »
Harry says he was 16 when "Emotional Rescue" was released, but that album was released in June 1980 and Harry's passport birth date is in August 1961, so he was nearly 19 when that album came out. See more »
She's the woman of the century. And I'm talking about her soul now.
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Throughout the credits, and at random intervals, there are images of stylised flowers, particularly noticeable in the section listing soundtrack items. See more »
Beautifully photographed Sicilian landscape dwarfs four small lives and the mess they create.
The getaway-retreat scenario is a common film device for creating a chaotic crossroad where divergent character types can bring their shady pasts, chronic problems and deviant desires. It works well in the melodrama genre because people act differently when brought together, especially in a luxurious or exotic location where they can let go and be who they really are: recent examples include Youth (2015) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). A Bigger Splash (2016) does this using a beautiful Sicilian hillside villa with a prominent pool for baring bodies and souls. To keep the plot line taut there are only four actors who play out in two pairs and the chemistry is anything but harmonious.
An almost silent Marianne (played by Tilda Swinton) is a once-famous rock star who is recuperating from throat surgery with her former alcoholic boyfriend Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts). They couple happily all over the villa until her extroverted and still-hungry former flame Harry (Ralph Fiennes) suddenly turns up with his sullen and sultry teenage daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson). The tension lines appear quickly and the dynamics morph seamlessly towards an erotic thriller. Harry and daughter are overly physical with each other, Paul is derailed by the teenager's libido, Marianne dabbles with forbidden fruit, while the men circle each other with malice. Harry's use of his daughter as bait turns out to make him the catch while the beautifully photographed Sicilian landscape dwarfs four small lives and the mess they create.
All of the actors deserve accolades but Fiennes stands out for his ability to plausibly and expressively switch from manic exuberance to emotional vulnerability. He drives the story forward both narratively and as its primary entertainer. Swinton and Johnson are perfect for their respective positions on the femme fatale spectrum, and Schoenaerts captures what many will say is the most complex role of this story. With fine acting, classic landscape photography, a great soundtrack, and an engaging story to tell, one would expect that the whole would be greater than the sum of its parts. But this circular tale simply leads back to where it starts and leaves a vague feeling they have not gone far. As with so many films, it will be judged on its final moments.
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