Director Damián Szifron presents an anthology of six short stories, each focusing on characters who face some sort of injustice or persecution and their means of (frequently violent) revenge. In ‘Pasternak’ a group of aeroplane passengers discover they have one significant thing in common, with horrifying results; in ‘The Rats’ revenge is taken on a boorish mob boss; ‘Road to Hell’ is a story of road-rage taken to the extreme; a man plots revenge on the bureaucracy that plagues him in ‘Bombita’; in ‘The Deal’ a wealthy man tries to protect his son from the tragic crime he committed; finally, ‘Til Death Do Us Part’ is the tale of a bride’s wedding-day revenge on her unfaithful husband.
The Critics Say
“Wild Tales is a raucously entertaining collection of “six deadly stories of revenge”. The brilliance of the film (produced by Pedro Almodóvar) lies in its combination of excess and ordinariness.” – Geoffrey Macnab, The Independent
“It’s a mad, mad social Darwinian world, churning with men and women who, whether pushed a lot or just a little, are all eager to do the worst to one another.” – Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
Original Title: Relatos salvajes
Country: Argentina, Spain
Director: Damián Szifron
Cinematographer: Javier Julia
Writer: Damián Szifron
Starring: Ricardo Darín, Érica Rivas, Darío Grandinetti
Runtime: 122 minutes
Looking at the themes of Damián Szifron’s revenge anthology it is easy to understand how these short tales were borne out of the director’s frustration, six stories that by his own words are partly about the ‘undeniable pleasure of losing control.’ Each of his embittered protagonists are afflicted with their own frustrations, caused by very relatable circumstances, such as the aggravating influence of obnoxious road-users or the faceless bureaucracies that impose fines for even the most minor infringements. In these cases, however, the characters of Wild Tales eagerly cast the shackles of inhibition to reap satisfaction upon their antagonists in a series of wish-fulfilment fantasies violently acted upon.
The first story, ‘Pasternak,’ perfectly sets a tone that is followed by each successive piece, a comic, violent revenge tale that by its conclusion ever so slightly strays into the farcical. The less said about its plot the better as it is, like each of the stories, at its best when one is blind to its mechanics. Each of the tales follow a similar premise; a person is driven to violent action by the most mundane of circumstances, such as in ‘Bombita,’ where a demolition expert is so incensed by the persecutions of the local parking enforcement he decides to take matters into his own hands, a scenario which will encourage sympathy in any who have been on the wrong end of a parking fine or clamped wheel. Similarly in ‘Road to Hell’ we witness a dramatic escalation of an everyday moment of road-rage, an impulsive piece of driving and the somewhat understandable retaliation it incites providing the catalyst for an explosive chain of events. Of all the stories this is the most violent and among the most ludicrous.
Anthology films are traditionally a hard sell to audiences who through a running time equivalent of a standard feature are frequently required to reset and engage with a new set of characters and unfamiliar plots. It is certainly credit to Szifron’s direction, Pablo Carrera’s impeccable editing and the strength of the individual stories that this doesn’t pose much of a problem through Wild Tales. Aside from the pre-credits ‘Pasternak,’ the shortest of the pieces, each film runs into another with no title or additional credit sequence to mark the transition, just a swift, unadorned cut. It is slightly disorienting when this happens for the first time but really there is little ambiguity in any of the stories’ conclusions so it doesn’t take long to be lulled into the film’s pace.
Pedro Almodóvar receives a production credit for Wild Tales but any influence he has had is certainly aligned to the sinister manipulations of The Skin I Live In (2011) rather than the knockabout kink of I’m So Excited! (2013) or High Heels (1991). Ultimately, the greatest success of Szifron’s anthology is that, like Almodóvar, he is able to imbue his violent, distressing stories with a skewed sense of humour and his characters with a great relatability. By the end of each of their wild tales these people may not quite resemble the everyman/woman we initially identify with but were we to retrace their transformation from victim to aggressor we would find it easy to justify the decisions they make along the way. Above all this is why the film works so well; with a little less restraint it could be any one of us getting our own back.
More by Damián Szifron
On Probation (2005) – A dark, comic buddy movie, Tiempo de valientes tells the story of a troubled therapist (Diego Peretti) who is forced to tag along with a police officer (Luis Luque) as part of a community service sentence received after a car accident for which he is to blame. As the pair spend more time together it becomes evident that the police officer, Alfredo, has emotional issues of his own to deal with.