In “A Bigger Splash,” Tilda Swinton almost doesn't speak at all. That might be a strong hook for a movie, but it’s downright cruel for those who like hearing the Oscar-winner blabber. In real life she’s a talker, quick to launch into epic, eloquent monologues filled with wordplay and curious, vivid expressions.
But this new film — her third feature with Italian director Luca Guadagnino, and their first after 2009’s “I Am Love” — robs her character of speech, the result of an operation she got thanks to her being a stadium-packing rock star. Swinton’s Marianne Lane isn’t completely mum. When she speaks, which she does as infrequently as she can, it’s in a husk. Even that can be bad on the vocal chords. Not that Swinton was ever worried.
“I’m so not a professional. I’m sure a professional would know how to do it without damaging their voice. But I didn’t think of it,” Swinton says. “I haven’t damaged my voice. So my rock career is safe.”
Rock stardom is something Tilda knows at least something about. She appeared alongside David Bowie in the 2013 video for “The Stars (Are Out Tonight).” One would think she was channeling the late music god, when Marianne is about to play before a packed crowd in face makeup. But no.
“Funnily enough we didn’t think of Bowie,” Swinton explains. “But the truth is anybody who puts on a sequin jumpsuit for the rest of time is going to be reminiscent of Bowie.” Instead she thought of Chrissie Hynde, Patti Smith, Joan Jett, PJ Harvey. “She’s like all sorts of people I am lucky enough to know, with that much drama in their life.”
“A Bigger Splash” isn’t about her rocking out, though. It follows Marianne on an extended vacation on the arid but gorgeous Mediterranean island of Pantelleria, doing little but lounging about with her photographer boyfriend (Matthias Schoenaerts). Their peaceful idyll is upset by the arrival of Henry (Ralph Fiennes), a music producer and close friend (and, for her, a former lover) who, unlike them, is still perpetually very much on.