Lurid Account: Luca Guadagnino on the Cinematography in A Bigger Splash

When I told StudioCanal that I was going to remake Jacques Deray’s 1969 La Piscine, I said, “I’m going to make the movie about the rock-and-roll generation, shot in Pantelleria, with an electric kind of rhythm,” and they said, “Yes,” so I stuck to that.

I wanted to create a visual language that could, in a way, keep up with the fucked-up anxieties of my characters. The camera is a barometer or thermometer, an instrument checking the temperature of their emotional status. Sometimes it’s frantic and sometimes it has a more relaxed paced, but it often has a piercing gaze that I wanted to achieve.

Dakota Johnson and Ralph Fiennes in A Bigger Splash

Dakota Johnson and Ralph Fiennes in A Bigger Splash

DP Yorick Le Saux and I used the light of the island, which was blinding, and we also used the darkness of the interiors, a contrast from the brightness of the island. We attempted to capture what we call “movement of the frame,” which is actors moving in front of the camera. When we were ready to work in the editing room we went to Walter Fasano, my editor, in search for an organic sense of electricity that could match the ideas behind the film.

I didn’t attend any film school, and I’m proud of it—even though I had an aspiration to become a teacher once—but I love many directors who went to film school. You may agree with me that Martin Scorsese’s way of using details, close-ups on a portion of action, has always been phenomenal. That’s something I learned from his films. If you think of The Color of Money, for instance, the way he plays with space and detail: the part for the whole and the whole for the part. Scorsese has been a huge influence on me, for his use of details and a sort of uppercut usage of editing in the juxtaposition of these elements.

In A Bigger Splash, it’s about the physicality. You see the characters in a certain position in a space in the present, and then you see them in another position in the space in the past, and that’s something more telling than any line of dialogue. When you see Harry and Paul in a bar in New York, their position—slouching over the bar, with the kind of blasé, drunken, intoxicated gaze that two men take on while talking about the fate of a woman they both want—that is indicative of the later conflict between the two men, which has risen out of this moment. We wanted to empower these moments. – as told to Carlos Aguilar

Luca Guadagnino helms the shoot on the island of Pantelleria

Luca Guadagnino helms the shoot on the island of Pantelleria

Tech Box

by Gaffer Francesco Galli

Cameras: Two Arricam LTs, one Arriflex 535, one Sony PMW-F55 for night exteriors, one Hydroflex for underwater scenes, one Red Epic for drone shots

Lenses: Cooke S4, up to 135mm; Zeiss Ultra Primes 10mm; Angénieux Optimo 24-290, 15-40, 28-76; Canon EF 400mm

Film Stock: Kodak Vision3 200T and 500T

Lighting: For daylight shooting, Arrimax 18K, ARRI Compact Fresnel 1200, ARRI Compact 6000, ARRI M40, ARRI M18, 1×1 Litepanel and available light with some thin silk filters, bounce boards and butterfly kits; for night exteriors, Aircraft 16 light bulbs for distant backgrounds, ARRI Compact 6000 for backlighting and ARRI M18 with Chimera Medium Daylight for fill lights and side lights; all filtered with LEE filters and mixed with tungsten lights on location. For the dinner scene, Chimera Birdcage Lantern Light and small lanterns. In windy weather we replaced the ARRI M18 and Chimera Medium Daylight with the ARRI L7-C to change the color temperature without using filters, recreating the softness of the Chimera by using handmade wood frames covered with a silent grid cloth. MM

A Bigger Splash opened in theaters May 4, 2016, courtesy of Fox Searchlight.