T’was a dark and dreary night when I arrived at the cinema to purchase my ticket for Argentinian made Wild Tales; having purposefully avoided any information about the film except that it was to be shown in six parts and it contained elements of black comedy, my mind was ready to expect the unexpected, brace for the bizarre… and that’s exactly what I got.
Without wanting to ruin the fun (maybe wrong word, maybe the perfect one) of anyone wishing to see Damnián Szifrón’s tales, I’ll be as brief and ambiguous about the stories as possible (although seeing it completely in the dark would be my advice (and by dark I mean both without knowledge and the lights turned down)).
From when the lights went down and the amusing Pearl and Dean Honda advert flickered onto the screen, until the credits rolled, I found myself slowly shifting towards the edge of my seat, tensing my muscles, even quietening my breath. In what begins as a Tarantino-esque set of bizarre and funny-because-of-it events, Szifrón very subtly and very beautifully changes gear into events that could and are happening in the real world and because of which, are not so funny anymore.
That said, the opening short story regarding a airplane does very unfortunately and coincidentally share some themes with the recent and tragic airline accident, one that the filmmakers have apologised for but to which everyone was still enjoying themselves on the night.
As an interesting experiment of human phycology and behaviour, the opening credit sequence sets the scene by showing a montage of predators (the animal kind, not the Arnold Schwarzenegger hunting kind), specifically mammals – the type of animal that we ourselves are. Despite thinking that we have evolved beyond our primal ancestors, Sziffrón clearly shows us that we haven’t at all and all we do is hide behind a world of material possessions and the illusion of our evolution – and just like our animal counterparts it was very believable to see even the smallest of events lead to the most brutal violence.
I’d also like to mention that even though I was having to look through past the language/subtitle barrier, the performances from the cast (most especially the bride in the final act) were most excellent.
A final point would be that even though Wild Tales a selection of short films, they don’t seem disjointed and flow from one to the next in a way that would make it a very different event if you simply watched the shorts on their own – one at a time.
So my verdict… As I try to rate things on how successful they are in terms of their aims this is a hard one to place. I think deep down I want to give this 5 stars, for it ability to manipulate me, look at the world we live in and even provide a good laugh – but something doesn’t feel right. Whether it’s because I was hoping the short stories would somehow link to one another (even as a background reference) or the lack of screen-time each character got, or simply because we’re not supposed to like it per-se. It’s like watching a news story covering something tragic. Your drawn in to watch it because it’s so horrific but at the same time it’s not something you enjoy.
The fact that I’m having to argue with myself is most likely proof that this tale of morality has indeed stirred some s*** up inside me so yes go on then – its a 5 from me!