Wild Tales (Damián Szifrón, 2014)
Wild Tales is the most seen Argentinian film of all time, and was nominated for best foreign language film at this year’s Oscars. Though this might work in its favour, many will be tempted to write it off as foreign, pretentious wankery that they won’t waste their time with because subtitles are too much effort, wah wah wah. Well I wouldn’t call myself a lover of foreign film (I see some, I like some of what I see) but I would implore all cinema lovers to see this film.
Wild Tales consists of six short stories (ranging in length from approximately five to thirty minutes) with their own cast and characters. They are all linked by a common theme of revenge, and are deliciously dark. Each story is different, covering additional themes of aggression, bureaucracy, corruption, infidelity, and family honour. The dark side of Argentina is exposed at times, though other stories explore universal issues. Every story has a twist, and each one packs a punch.
This is a dark, dark, comedy. It’s almost hard to watch at times – not because of any graphic violence, but because it exposes the fundamental flaws of human beings, who are often caught up in their pride, and who act out of fear. It’s funny and yet horrific at the same time. I can’t even pick my favourite story because I’m tempted to pick the one that was the most disturbing – The Strongest – but then I remember that I couldn’t wait for it to be over because it was so unsettling. But hilarious! I think.
The two hour running time certainly flies by – I’d expected an additional story and was surprised when the credits started to roll. You might expect that a collection of short stories could be lacking in plot and character development, and that it would be difficult to get emotionally invested in any one story on offer here. But the simplicity of these tightly packaged narratives was refreshing, and every one brought with it something fresh to maintain viewer engagement. The opening scene is the shortest story, but one of the best opening scenes in recent history because of its immediate impact.
It’s difficult to pick a single acting stand-out, as most only get limited screen-time, but Erica Rivas as a crazed bride in Until Death Do Us Part probably takes the cake (ah, them puns!) If you’ve ever wanted to see a wedding gone totally wrong in a darkly hilarious fashion, look no further. Bridezillas ain’t got nothing on this.
The soundtrack is oddly brilliant, with a road rage scene involving the Love Theme from Flashdance a bloody perfect choice. Writer/director Damián Szifrón is kicking goals with this film, and here’s hoping it’s not the last we see of him. Get ready for a wild time – you’ll cringe all through it, but it will so be worth it.