Cast: Ricardo Darín, Oscar Martínez, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Érica Rivas, Rita Cortese, Julieta Zylderberg, Darío Grandinetti
Director: Damián Szifron
Writer: Damián Szifron
The film is about as unconventional as it gets. ‘Film’ may not even be the right word as Wild Tales is actually a collection of six short-films, each about twenty minutes in length. These short-films are all linked thematically as they each portray a tale of violence and vengeance. ‘Wild’ is definitely the word to describe these stories as they all contain wildly erratic characters doing unbelievably crazy deeds. These are deeply dark and disturbing stories that could easily have been told in unsettling and deranged ways. However they are instead told with such a strong sense of madness and absurdity that they end up coming across as hysterical. This is a viewing experience unlike any other.
Each story starts off with a simple concept that is then carried away by the sheer madness of it all. Amongst these stories are the airline passengers who discover that they all have something in common, a waitress who comes across the man that ruined her life, two men on the road who have a quarrel with one another, a mild-mannered engineer who is tired of being taken advantage of by the corrupt system, a rich father who seeks to save his son from serving time in prison, and a newlywed bride who has suddenly become aware of her husband’s infidelity. The main drawback when it comes to anthology films or shows (Saturday Night Live for instance) is that the viewing experience tends to rise and fall depending on the viewer’s reaction to each individual story. In the case of Wild Tales there are certainly some stories that work better than others (my personal favourite was the wedding story) but they’re all still enjoyable in their own ways.
What makes these stories so striking is how batshit insane they are. While they all start off simply they quickly and erratically develop out of control and take many unexpected twists and turns along the way. Watching these stories as they develop in the most irrational and unpredictable ways is almost like watching a twisted version of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. You never know what is going to happen next, you only know that it will be something fanatical and depraved. Each second is one of intense anticipation as you await the outcome to these morbidly strange stories. What unites these six stories is that they recount the tale of someone who has been wronged and how far those people are willing to go to make things right. These people all become more irrational and more volatile the longer the situation is drawn out and the thinner that their patience wears. Although their situations are all vastly different, their motivations are strikingly similar. They all seek balance, retribution and justice (although these characters would likely disagree over what exactly those three ideas actually constitute).
The numerous characters in these stories are all interesting and engaging in their own ways. The central character of my favourite story is Romina (Érica Rivas), the aggrieved bride who seeks to destroy her husband following the discovery of his infidelity. The diabolical depravity she portrays combined with her wounded vulnerability make her a thoroughly entertaining and sympathetic character. Equally compelling was Simón Fischer (Ricardo Darín) the disgruntled engineer who declares war on the system. After an entire lifetime of following the rules and doing as he is told only to be taken advantage of and to experience injustice after injustice, this quiet, unassuming man harbours a deep volatile nature that is unearthed in his moral crusade. Other great characters include Mauricio Perayra Hamilton (Oscar Martínez), the wealthy father whose stubbornness proves upsetting for three men; Concinera (Rita Cortese), the furtive chef with a violent temperament; and Gabriel Pasternak, a character whom we never actually see or hear from in this film but who still leaves a resounding impact. There is no shortage of entertaining characters to root for, to root against, and to just enjoy.
Wild Tales is without question the strangest film I’ve seen in recent months and I loved every second of it. It is incredibly difficult for a film with such disturbing ideas to be entertaining and this film pulls it off beautifully. Each story is crazy and absurd enough to be funny and therefore to distance the viewer from the brutality and violence, but is also interesting enough to engage the viewer and command his attention. The advantage of the short-story format is that the film does not drag and it never gets tiring. Each story lasts only as long as it needs to and then moves on before the viewer can get a full handle on what is happening. This film is understandably not for everyone. Some might find it too squeamish, others might find it too disturbing, and others still might find it too weird. For me, however, it was an outrageously entertaining film filled with dark humour and harrowing sequences, all of it riotously unconventional.