Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

In the garden of temptations

Ralph Fiennes’s sweaty, sensual drama, “A Bigger Splash”

Nicholas Barber | January/February 2016

Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes) is the best and worst house guest imaginable. As his rock-star ex-lover (Tilda Swinton) is enjoying a holiday on an Italian island with her boyfriend (Matthias Schoe­naerts), Harry bursts into their villa with his coquettish daughter (Dakota Johnson), two serpents in the couple’s Edenic hideaway. Sins are sure to be committed – perhaps involving violence, definitely involving sex – but, in the meantime, Harry is the relentless life and soul of the party, hurling himself naked into the outdoor pool, shepherding everyone to local restaurants and festivals, and talking, singing and dancing his way through hilarious anecdotes about his pals, the Rolling Stones.

There is more to “A Bigger Splash” than the trouble with Harry, mind you. A loose remake of Jacques Deray’s “La Piscine”, the film develops into a sweatily sensual drama, a Hitchcockian thriller and a cutting commentary on the current refugee crisis. Its director, Luca Guadagnino, has fashioned a dazzling follow-up to his hit, “I Am Love”, and its screenwriter, David Kajganich, has established himself as one of the classiest dialogue-crafters in the business. But it’s the savagely hedonistic Harry you’ll remember. Taken with “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “In Bruges”, “A Bigger Splash” proves that Fiennes isn’t just a serious thespian, but also a comic genius. ~ NICHOLAS BARBER

A Bigger Splash opens in Britain, Feb 12th

 

FILM AT A GLANCE

The Danish Girl (Jan 1st). Another Eddie Redmayne transformation: having gone from able-bodied to paralysed in “The Theory of Everything”, he goes from male to female in this lavish gender-reassignment drama. But Alicia Vikander is even more remarkable as the wife who stands by her woman.

The Hateful Eight (Jan 8th). Tarantino returns to “Reservoir Dogs” territory by trapping a group of trigger-happy strangers in a building. This time, though, the building is a log cabin in 19th-century Wyoming.

Room (Jan 15th). A young woman (Brie Larson) is held captive in a shed with her young son. This flawless adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s bestseller is restrained and uplifting, despite its skin-crawling premise.

Youth (Jan 29th). Paolo Sorrentino follows his Oscar-winning “The Great Beauty” with a gorgeous meditation on mortality, celebrity, sex and art. In his agreeably rambling comedy, Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel are holidaying at an Alpine spa hotel. Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano and Paloma Faith drop by. ~ NB

Readers' comments

Sign in or Create your account to join the discussion.