Director: Luca Guadagnino
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton and Mathias Schoenaerts
Running Time: 124 minutes
Release Date: February 12th
Self-destruction is often seen as an integral part of rock music. You put out a handful of great albums, and then implode. The people who complete this task, and join the twenty-seven club become icons, beloved for their uncompromising behaviour. They capture the zeitgeist, and then vanish. Anybody else who decides to carry on, opting for a safer route, via rehab, reunions, bottled water, greatest hits, or general nostalgia ends up being classified as the sell-outs.
Those people are the sensible types, but at the same time, those people are also The Rolling Stones in 2016.
Then there are the critics on the other hand, the ones who scorn nostalgia, but whom, by wanting the Sex Pistols to be as uncompromising as they were in 1977, are equally as nostalgic. Rambling on about “purity” in art, they are the romantics, whose condemnations are really a cry for the good old days to never die. They worship at the altar of the icon, the rebel, and fawn over the self-destructive aspects of youth, but of course, they secretly would never opt to crash the plane themselves. They are the un-nihilistic nihilists, otherwise known as sentimentalists.
The two are embroiled in an absurd war over legacy. You read about it in the NME daily. It is ridiculous, because it’s only rock ‘n’ roll. Yet they fight as humanity was on the line. Both equally as divorced from reality, theirs is this farcical battle of pop culture that director Luca Guadagnino uses to drive A Bigger Splash, a sexually charged thriller that pokes fun at the egotistical behaviour of rock stars.
Reminiscent of Bernardo Bertolucci, or Michelangelo Antonioni via its social commentary, this black comedy unravels wonderfully in a villa atop a hill overlooking a picturesque Italian rural landscape. The cast of fools consist of platinum selling rock star, Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton), her husband and documentary filmmaker Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), Marianne’s former lover and producer Harry (Ralph Fiennes), and his femme fatale problem child, Penelope (Dakota Johnson).
Neo-noir in the sun, Marianne and Paul’s holiday was conceived as a recovery, for her throat surgery, and for his alcoholism and recent suicide attempt. However, the retreat descends into a horror show when Harry and Penelope rudely interrupt the tranquillity by paying a surprise visit. Irritatingly vivacious, and a fierce preacher of excess, Harry’s endless barrage of anecdotes become highly provocative, as he reflects incessantly upon his, and Marianne’s drug-charged relationship. A plague of nostalgia, his only reason for being present is to force the happy couple to travel back in time, much to their dismay.
Paul understandably is not too chuffed to see this man, who invites his own guests over to the house to stroke his ego further. Clearly still hoping to reclaim Marianne, Harry wants everything to be as it once was, and this longing one can see has caused his daughter to mutate into a damaged, but malevolent seductress. As the sane attempt to cope with the insane, the tensions build under the intense heat, until the elastic band snaps, and oh, the bad times do come in pure Rolling Stones fashion.
Yet, beneath this main story, there is a darker subplot, which condemns each of those present, for their being too self-absorbed to be truly in tune with the actual time they live in. For all of the politically charged ideas of their yesteryears, and despite the fact that Harry has on his chest a tattoo of the Communist hammer and sickle, the four demonstrate admirable ignorance, as their resort is interrupted by the refugee crisis. This merging of two polar opposites is what gives A Bigger Splash its rich subtext, and praise must be handed to Guadagnino’s strength in silently capturing the prejudices of these privileged folk.
A fun, but interesting depiction of apathy and nostalgia, A Bigger Splash is the summery response to Force Majeure in how it trashes the carefree bourgeois getaway. From its tasteless sense of humour, and assessment of subtle racism, to the Aguirre, The Wrath of God soundtrack being boomed over idyllic landscapes, this is creative filmmaking that manages to work both as an enjoyable flick and a relevant comment on our heated social climate.