Image source. Copyright Warner Bros., 2014.
Admit it: revenge feels good. No matter how emotionally mature you think you are, no matter how well you know it isn’t “right,” deep down, the idea of getting back at that person who did you wrong makes your gut tremble with anticipation. The characters in Damián Szifron’s Wild Tales couldn’t agree more. Wild Tales is dark comedy at its finest: just as you’re spilling your insides out with laughter, the movie sobers you with the realization that we human beings can be such jerks to each other. This is one ride through human iniquity you don’t want to miss.
Wild Tales collects together the stories of six people who each find themselves dealt an unlucky hand in life. An aggrieved loner who crashes a plane full of the people he hates; a waitress who finds herself serving the man she blames for the death of her father; a driver who finds himself accosted by another driver he insulted earlier; a demolitionist who loses all he has because of one parking ticket; a rich man whose son irresponsibly causes a tragic car accident; a bride who goes Gone Girl when she discovers the groom’s dark secret – seemingly random catastrophic events have left each of these people ignominiously biting the dust. And under Szifron’s direction, there is absolutely nothing that they will not do to make sure the people who wronged them get what they deserve.
This isn’t Sweeney Todd 2.0. The people in Wild Tales are all ordinary, not characters in a drama on a nihilistic quest for total destruction. But it’s because of their commonplace nature that the extremes to which these characters take their crusades of revenge strike us as so ludicrously hilarious. Watching how a simple flip-off can lead to two dead bodies and two exploded cars doesn’t sound plausible on the surface, but in the world of Wild Tales, such things are bread and butter. The movie stands as an excellent example of what Pablo Picasso meant when he claimed that “art is a lie that tells the truth.” The sheer absurdity of these people’s actions shows us just how selfish, unfair, and immature we people in real life can all be when confronted with injustice. These screen characters may look silly, but take just a couple steps in the right direction and that could be you up there, blowing up a parking lot over the astronomical price of a towing ticket. Because when it comes down it, most of us would rather feel that glorious, gloating sensation of giving someone else his comeuppance than live life with nagging anger always biting at our side. And that’s exactly the chilling thought Wild Tales wants us to ponder.
Fortunately, Szifron doesn’t force the viewer to dwell too much on these depressing ideas. This is a comedy, after all, not an indictment of humanity. He steps back and allows the stories to speak for themselves in all their absurd truth. As pure drama, these tales are masterfully crafted time-bombs of suspense. They unfold like a simmering pot of water that steams over before you realize what happened, and you’ll always find yourself surprised by how each character finds a way to get payback. By the time it’s over, you’ll only be disappointed that each story ends just as it “gets good.” There are at least six amazing full-length films in here, each one a lesson in itself. As they are, however, these short stories together offer one of the most spirited, energetic, and, yes, wild, portrayals of human beings run amok. Somewhere out there, Heath Ledger and his clown friend would be having a blast.
Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes) (2014)
Starring: Ricardo Darín, Oscar Martínez, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Érica Rivas
Running Time: 122 minutes
Produced by: Hugo Sigman, Pedro Almodóvar, Agustín Almodóvar, Matías Mosteirín, Esther García, Felipe Photiades, Gerardo Rozín
Directed by: Damián Szifron
Written by: Damián Szifron