Set in the beautiful and sweltering island of Pantelleria off the coast of Tunisia and Sicily, A Bigger Splash is a remake of 1969 film La Piscine.
The opening shows a Ziggy Stardust-esque Marianne (Tilda Swinton) at a huge stadium gig about to burst into her set, but quickly shifts to a naked Marianne at the side of a pool with an equally naked Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) next to her.
Their escape to the island is presented as recuperation for Marianne’s apparent throat operation, which has rendered her mute and possibly unable to continue with her superstar career.
This makes the unexpected arrival of her ex-lover and producer Harry (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson) all the more raucous because he barely stops talking to breathe and she seems to display the character of a sullen teenager, despite professing to be 22.
What follows is a story of music, jealousy, sexual tension and anger, set against a backdrop of small flashbacks, rock and roll and some bizarrely energetic dancing (the scene at the villa where Harry gets into the groove was mesmerising).
Paul owes in part his relationship with Marianne to Harry, a point which is revisited in some of the flashbacks, but it is clear that Harry has unfinished business with Marianne, and it seems that she is not the only one recuperating, as we learn of Paul’s rehab for alcohol dependency.
Penelope sizzles away like Lolita while Paul angrily watches the electricity between his lover and her ex reignite. It feels more than a little Shakespearean as the inevitable partner swap looms on the horizon.
The way the film is directed gives us lingering shots on various body parts for each of the main characters as well as a particularly poignant scene where Penelope dons Marianne’s shoes – metaphorically as well as literally to head out on a hike with Paul. I actually expected the film to be pretty languid all the way through, so when it took a dramatic turn near the end, I did sit forward in my seat.
Watch this if you love Tilda Swinton and a good old menacing undertone to a film.