Film Review: Wild Tales

What separates us from living like animals? And what calamity or force does it take to unleash our primal instincts?


“Wild Tales” is a compendium of satirical short stories about the pain and pressure points of modern 21st Century life and specifically what happens to the Latin spirit under duress. What delirious lengths do we go to when the pressure of injustice reaches boiling point and something inside us snaps, when all social constraints are abandoned and our spirits are liberated to express our hidden rage and seek bloody revenge. It is a wild ride, visually exciting, full of imaginative twists, and not a breath of the script is wasted.

This blistering satire from Argentina was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Oscars and has become the most seen Argentinian film of all time. It has struck a deep chord with the Argentinian people, who have adopted lines from the film as catch phrases and made folk heroes of the actors and actresses – some of whom were already household names in Argentinian cinema, such as Ricardo Darín who plays ‘Bombita’. For the irrepressible South American spirit, this film is a cathartic release of the suppressed emotions we feel obliged to bury living in a bureaucratic, corrupt and unequal society.


Executive Produced by Pedro Almodovar, the film has overtones of “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” (1988) and has a similar retro style, but takes the frantic darkness much further as these characters all stride well over the verge. Argentinian writer and director Damian Szifron explains “What separates civilisation from barbarism is a complex battery of social inhibitors that prevent us from retaliating with violence to many slights and aggravations of daily life “. Here “we see actors acting unconstrainedly without the slightest social or cultural shackles on their behaviour and it all makes for a great spectacle”.


In spite of its dark nature, Wild Tales is a hilarious sequence of six macabre tales of murder, violence, betrayal and unchecked rage sewn together seamlessly in a series of unrelated stories of individuals losing control.


The first stunningly funny pre-title story called ‘Pasternak’ opens with a model catching a plane with a ticket paid for by a ‘company’. Onboard she meets a Music Professor who turns out to have destroyed the academic career of her ex-boyfriend who she also betrayed, coincidently with the guy sat at the back of the plane. Alarmingly everyone on the airplane has aggrieved Pasternak in some way, and now he is locked in the cockpit with his hands on the controls.


Spoiler alert: It was noted on the BFI and Curzon Cinema websites that there was some similarity between the fictional crash at the start of the film and the real Germanwings crash.


The ‘Twilight Zone’ dark mood develops in the second story called ‘The Rat’, where revenge is served up to a corrupt mayoral candidate who visits a diner where the waitress clocks him as the evil villain who drove her father to suicide. The third tale ‘Road Rage’ presents a more visceral depiction of class war; a modern day man-fight of apocalyptic proportions. I gasped and laughed simultaneously, feeling justified, indignant and relieved all at the same time.


The last three stories, ‘Bombita’, ‘The Deal’ and ‘Til Death Us Do Part’ expand from personal revenge to social satire with commentaries on bureaucratic tyranny, political corruption and marriage. ‘Bombita’ follows a demolition expert whose car is impounded by the city more than once until he snaps and redeems himself using dynamite, becoming a local hero. In ‘The Deal’ a corrupt politician buys an alibi to save his weak son from prison. The last vignette ‘Til Death Us do Part’ crescendos us to another level where a bride discovers her groom has been unfaithful with one of the wedding guests and vengeance is hers.


It is in this last tale that we really get to connect with the freedom of losing control. The turning point when your emotions are given free reign and you gain freedom from all constraints. You are liberated, released from expectations and free to express your true self, however wild.

“Wild Tales” Directed by Damian Szifron, (SpanishRelatos Salvajes) Argentina/Spain 2014

In general release in UK cinema.

Review by Sarah West (Filmmaker)

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