Breaking into my Top 10 for the entire year, Wild Tales is an anthology like no other. 6 short stories, with no connection, apart from the reoccurring theme of insanity from what at first appears to be innocent and mundane situations. A wedding, a chance encounter, a meal in a restaurant or having your car towed. While each incident on its own sounds relatively normal – not in Damian Szifron’s world, where these are escalated to unpredictable and outright ridiculous heights.
It does set itself the hard task of bettering the first act, “Pasternak”, which in hindsight is arguably the strongest of the six. Passengers on an plane meet each other for the first time; all realising that perhaps there is more of a connection here than first thought. The true reveal is slowly introduced with shocking consequences, the cast demonstrating short but convincing performances and the conclusion is that of sheer terror. The tone for Wild Tales is set high from the beginning, as an unashamedly funny yet deliriously tragic film.
“Las Ratas” (The Rats) is more of a subdued affair. The connection between those involved in the scene revealed at the beginning, but it doesn’t take away from the dreadful yet still continuously amusing sequence of events that follow. Boundaries of humour and disgust are blurred, and before you can catch your breath you are taken into the next instalment. The third act, “El más fuerte” (The Strongest), will certainly make you think twice about yelling out of your window at a slower driver in the future. A relatable but ridiculous game of one-upmanship spirals out of control with revoltingly comical consequences, and despite its sordid acts, you can’t help but laugh.
Ricardo Darin brings the star power to the fourth title, “Bombita” (“Little Bomb”). He gets engaged in a back-and-forth with a towing company who continually stitch him up, and have him embroiled in a system designed for the claimant to always lose. Darin is always superb to watch on-screen, and it’s no different here for even though he is with us for a short amount of time, he proves once again why he is so damn good. “La Propuesta” (“The Proposal”) is thematically much darker than the others and the humour less slapstick based. A dark blip on the delightful run of off-beat violent comedies, firing shots at social inequality and how far money will take you.
Aptly, the parting episode is titled, “Hasta que la muerte nos separe” (“Until Death Do Us Part”). An incredibly well acted, and visually enjoyable scene, filled with absolute nastiness and obscenities. The culmination of all the emotions in Wild Tales coming to a head, condensed into a single wedding ceremony for both audiences and wedding guests to watch as you all squirm awkwardly in your seat. The script is as sharp and violent as the actions that take place, and it’s in this final scene that viewing becomes the most difficult but also the most gratifying.
Anthologies are always a difficult one to get right. Usually very inconsistent, all over the place in terms of themes, budget, acting, purpose and script. Wild Tales has excelled where others have failed, allowed each scene to become inherently different but finished with the same level of style and substance, remaining within similarly dark themes of irony and karma-induced violence. These are tales you can relate to, frustrating everyday occurrences taken to the darkest place possible, and for some this film could be an exercise in releasing these urges to explode. Thankfully, what we also see, is the dark hindsight to suggest that perhaps acting on these urges isn’t always the best choice.