As I wrote about Jacques Deray’s 1969 movie “The Swimming Pool” last year, I had to talk this year about its remake “A Bigger Splash”, released in 2015. Directed by Luca Guadagnino, “A Bigger Splash” is the second part of the director’s “trilogy of desire” – succeeding “I am In Love” which describes the amorous passion of a Milanese upper class woman and a young chef, and preceding “Call Me By Your Name” which evokes the nascent adolescent desire.

If the plots of “I am In Love” and “Call Me By Your Name” are located in Northern Italy, that of “A Bigger Splash” takes place in Pantelleria, a small volcanic and arid Italian island halfway between Sicily and Tunisia.

It is on this rustic island that Marianne (Tilda Swinton) and Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) have decided to isolate themselves for the Summer. Marianne, who is a huge rock star, has just undergone an operation which prevents her from speaking and Paul, her young lover, is a photographer in need of inspiration. They long for peace and happiness in a beautiful Spartan villa crushed by the sun when Harry (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson) arrive without warning and impose themselves for a few days. The beautiful harmony that the lovers were looking for is broken, especially as Harry, unbearable and infatuated, tries to win back Marianne with whom he lived a great passion and Penelope, spoiled and rude, sets her sights on Paul.

The holidays will obviously turn into a tragedy.

Where Jacques Deray hardly elaborated on the characters, Luca Guadagnino dwells extensively on the emotional state, the past and the liabilities that animate his protagonists. (He also dwells on food, which is always very important in his films – we can’t blame him).

Unlike the Marianne portrayed by Romy Schneider, Tilda Swinton’s Marianne is a woman deliberately presented in chiaroscuro: an international star of Bowiesque stature, she may fill entire stadiums when she sings but can’t even speak during those insane vacations.

Her feelings towards Harry are equally unclear. She may be deeply in love with Paul, but the nostalgia for a period filled with amorous and professional passion wins her over and almost makes her fall over. Paul may represent a haven of love, peace and tranquility, but we suspect that the old demons of passion and destruction are not far away.

Her public rock and even punk style is the opposite of her personal style, imbued with elegance and simplicity. Luca Guadagnino worked with Raf Simons during his time at Dior to create a timeless wardrobe for this voiceless singer. Raf Simons’ designs for the film are a reinterpretation on 50s styles – channeling Ingrid Bergman in Rossellini’s “Journey to Italy” and expose the contrast between Marianne’s life as a punk icon and her quiet and recovering persona.

Marianne is always a little too elegant when compared to the rusticity that surrounds her, but it is this chic and retro wardrobe that allows her to express herself and stand out from the crowd. The simplicity of these outfits always hides a sophistication that reminds us of her status and her stature as an international star.

She is, in a word, imperial.

And in fact, the rivalry between her and Penelope leaves Marianne indifferent because it is Penelope – young and inexperienced – who gets annoyed by the power of seduction of a woman she considers too old. Penelope channels another poisonous young lady, Chris, who compete with her mother, in “The Year of the Jellyfish” by Christopher Franck.

The characters of “A Bigger Splash” have much more depth than in the original film, which was worth especially for the solar presence of Romy Schneider and Alain Delon.

Tara Jarmon top – Gianfranco Ferré skirt – Vintage YSL belt and cuff – Chanel sandals and sunglasses – Dior pouch

July 28, 2023