Luca Guadagnino’s erotic joyride is about the breaking point: what we think we want, and what happens when we get it — or don’t.
Luca Guadagnino’s erotic joyride, A Bigger Splash, opens on a performance. The camera slides past stadium scaffolding through the smoke, the crowd rumbles, and rock star Marianne (Tilda Swinton) takes the stage. Then we cut to a completely private moment: Marianne and her younger paramour Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), sunbathing in the nude at their idyllic Italian villa. The camera doesn’t leer or linger; their nudity is casual. This moment is for them alone. It’s almost their last before Marianne’s ex-lover Harry (Ralph Fiennes) blows in with his newfound daughter, Pen (Dakota Johnson), in tow, to pursue Marianne.
Guadagnino’s focus is examining social performance, especially how professional performance relates to private life. Marianne is a rockstar who sings for a living but can’t speak. Harry is a behind-the-scenes record producer; he listens for a living but won’t stop talking. Paul is an observer, a documentarian, who tries to stay out of the conflict but ends up inciting the most destructive act. Pen, the only one without a profession, is the biggest mystery, for she’s still figuring out who she wants to be in the spotlight.