VENICE, Italy (AP) — Tilda Swinton was eager to star in director Luca Guadgagni's latest film, the Italian island tragicomedy "A Bigger Splash." There was just one small condition: She wouldn't speak.
"It was a moment in my life when I really didn't want to say anything," the enigmatic British actress told reporters Sunday at the Venice Film Festival. "Even less than I do now."
On the other hand, she wanted to work again with the Italian filmmaker after appearing in his features "The Protagonists" and "I Am Love."
"The one thing that came to my mind was — well I will come if I don't need to speak," Swinton said.
Guadgagni agreed, so in "A Bigger Splash," an almost-silent Swinton plays Marianne Lane, a Bowie-esque rock star ordered to rest her voice after surgery. Her vacation on the island of Pantelleria with down-to-earth boyfriend Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) is interrupted by old flame Harry (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson). Their arrival triggers emotional eruptions on the rugged volcanic isle.
Swinton said that as a performer, she couldn't resist the idea of silencing "someone whose entire career has been about her voice."
"To take that away felt to me like too tantalizing a temptation," she said.
She said all the characters are "fighting the fact that none of us can really communicate with one another, with words or anything else."
There are plenty of words in "A Bigger Splash," which takes its title and central image of a swimming pool from a David Hockney painting. Most are provided by Fiennes' character, a motor-mouthed music producer who uses talk as a buffer against life's darkness.
The performance is the latest proof — after "The Grand Budapest Hotel" — of Fiennes' long-underappreciated comic flair. In the movie's most memorable scene, he performs an unrestrained solo dance to the Rolling Stones' "Emotional Rescue."
Fiennes said the script said simply that his character "gets up and dances and expresses himself completely through dancing."
"I'd never been asked to do that on a film before," he said. "And so I said 'yes, thank you.'"
The film — a remake of 1969 French drama "The Swimming Pool" — is one of 21 titles competing for the Golden Lion and at the Venice festival, which ends Saturday.
The film's characters may be trying to get away from it all, but reality intrudes on their island idyll. Pantelleria, southwest of Sicily, is only 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Tunisia, and boats of migrants fleeing war and poverty often land on its shores.
They are seen peripherally in the film, and some viewers disliked the juxtaposition of the migrant crisis with the domestic dramas of well-heeled Westerners. The film received a smattering of boos at a festival press screening Sunday.
Swinton said she wanted to change the terms of the discussion to avoid the word "migrants."
"We're dealing with refugees," she said." War refugees."
Guadgagni said he felt it was important to have the characters' desires "clash with reality." And he didn't mind if the film makes some viewers uncomfortable.
"If we don't make films to take risks, and if we don't make movies to try and explore new territory, or territory that might be insidious, why make films at all?" he said.
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