Life in the time of excess: A Bigger Splash at the BFI London Film Festival

Image Credit – From A Bigger Splash by StudioCanal

There’s a lot to unpack with A Bigger Splash – from the refugees crisis, to our material culture to, well, arses.

A loose remake of 1969 French-Italian film La Piscine, A Bigger Splash follows rockstar Marianne Lane (played by Tilda Swinton) and filmmaker Paul de Smedt (Matthias Schoenaerts), a fictional celebrity couple on holiday on a secluded Italian island.

Serenity soon turns to hedonistic chaos with the arrival of an old friend (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter (Dakota Johnson of Fifty Shades of Grey fame). As the partying intensifies, each of their lives begins to unravel.

Undoubtedly the film’s most interesting idea is it’s most subtle. Scattered throughout the film are shots of immigrants, mostly huddled in refugee camps – far from a throwaway reference to the crisis in Europe. The movie fawns over the privileged, white, debauched protagonists, despite their careless and destructive ways, whilst the poor immigrants, who only seek sanctuary, are dismissed and ultimately vilified.

What A Bigger Splash really dances with is the seduction and revulsion of our materialist Western culture.

The film has a scintillating sensuality, objectifying everything and immersing the audience in a world of temptations.  The camera is a wandering eye, one never afraid of lingering on a breast or bum cheek.

That isn’t to say that the film’s objectification is misogynistic – everything is fetishised indiscriminately. Fiennes’ penis makes a surprising number of appearances, and the camera traces Schoenaerts’ physique gleefully. Fiennes’ character Harry is said to be happy to fuck anything, and clearly the camera wants to do the same.

We obviously live in a tabloid culture, one in which we relish reading about celebrity sex lives and who went to what club. It’s easy to romanticise and sensationalise these things; We even find perverse pleasure in high profile breakdowns. But the reality isn’t romantic, and whilst the images and sounds of A Bigger Splash may appear sexy, the characters all feel grimy and damaged.

The problem with material culture is that things become just things, they lose meaning, a truth A Bigger Splash confronts us with. The central question of the film becomes: what effect does this loss of meaning have on how we treat human beings?

Just like the booze and the pills and the clothes, people become disposable in A Bigger Splash. The character’s seem to only care about themselves, not each other.

Undoubtedly A Bigger Splash isn’t for everyone. It’s a sometimes humorous, but frequently dark examination of a lifestyle we all seem to aspire to and worship. The film’s a technical marvel, perfect for film fanatics. But if you’re a regular reader of Heat Magazine, this may be one to avoid.

A Bigger Splash is set for release in the UK on February 12th 2016.

Image Credit – From A Bigger Splash by StudioCanal.

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