I believe it.
And I think Tilda does too.
There a few movie stars who somehow manifest capital C Celebrity, as if they were a literal star, a celestial object made incarnate. Marilyn Monroe, Brad Pitt, Robert Mitchum, Cary Grant, Jennifer Lawrence, Tilda Swinton et al. These celebrities possess an extra luminescence, they radiate an additional isotope, some other sense transcendent of audio/visual; they are eminently watchable, and not alone from being beautiful or convincing, or expressive or photogenic, or any of those obvious qualities that make up your average movie star.
Charisma is that word that best defines this virtue. “Grace” or “Favor bestowed” as the original Greek has it. It is an otherworldly virtue. A holy dispensation from the Gods. And a kind of dispensation that is not unfamiliar in Tilda Swinton’s new movie A Bigger Splash.
Throughout Ms. Swinton’s career she has routinely been cast in a position of power, of elevated status. Her role here is no different. She is the goddess around which the plot revolves. She plays Marianne Lane a rock superstar in the mode of David Bowie, albeit one who cannot talk. She has had corrective surgery to save her singing voice and as the movie opens she is convalescing poolside with her current lover (name) in a remote chateau on the rocky Italian island of Pellanteria (name).
Her character being mute is Ms. Swinton’s own invention. With the perfect capriciousness of any god, she had decided, prior to being cast, that she, Tilda Swinton, just did not have anything to say, and so took on a vow of silence. She agreed to be cast in A Bigger Splash, as long as her character was mute and the director (name) agreed.
A stupid whim, us mortals might surmise, but one that serves the movie well.For Tilda does not need to speak: her presence is enough.
Plus here comes Ralph Fiennes and he talks plenty.
He is Marianne’s ex-lover and he calls Marianne on the phone to tell her he and his daughter (Dakota Johnson) are flying in just as the shadow of their plane flashes over her and (name) beach prone bodies. They are not amused.
So begins the torrid sex romp. An exposition of rich people behaving badly in beautiful landscapes that would be annoying were the performers not having so much fun. Ralph Fiennes is an unstoppable force of Dionysian volubility, dancing to the Rolling Stones as if it were the end of the world while Tilda Swinton eyes him silently from beside the pool. She’s the queen of subtlety and crowns herself with a Cheshire cat grin.
Craft is the name of the game here, in performance, screenplay and direction and the movie demands to be watched again to in order to take in all the little details.
But a craft too that seems to border on the documentary for there are plenty of moments where we feel as if we’re watching the actors actually just hanging out and not ‘acting’ at all. To that end the film achieves a kind of queasy decadence that is only amplified by background TV’s broadcasting the mass drownings of immigrants.
None of which matters much to our bon vivants: for them history is only as important the immortality that it grants. Charisma becomes a kind of curse then: the divine dispensation that has been granted them also denies them having any empathy.