The foreign film “Wild Tales” certainly lives up to its name. Technically, it is a collection of six short films that all share the common theme of vengeance and violence. Directed by the Argentinian director Damian Szifron, the movie was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category. While the six-story conglomerate is untraditional in its style, the difficult and resonating themes portrayed in each segment create a gripping assemblage.
“Wild Tales” is completely in Spanish with English subtitles.
The film doesn’t waste time shocking the audience, although the first scene starts off seemingly normal, with passengers engaging in normal banter and conversation as they board a plane and prepare for takeoff. However, things soon take a quick turn for the worse (and bizarre) as the passengers realize that they all share a connection to a man by the name of Gabriel Pasternak, who they have all wronged in some way. None of them have paid for their ticket and were in some way or another led onto the flight by outside circumstance. When the flight attendant informs the passengers that this man is the pilot of the flight, they realize that they are doomed. The passengers began panicking and begging the pilot to change the flight’s trajectory, but to no avail. The scene ends with a shot of an elderly couple, implied to be Gabriel Pasternak’s parents, at a retirement home as the plane plummets in the distance toward the ground. The film cuts just before the impact.
The remaining five stories are no less violent or disturbing. One scene ends with the poisoning and eventual bloody murder of a loan shark by a waitress and her coworker; another with the ironic metaphorical implosion of a detonation engineer’s family and work life; and another still showing road-rage turned into a gruesome and graphic struggle that involves strangulation, the use of a fire extinguisher and a ratchet as weapons and the visual representation of urination and excrement before ending in a giant explosion that kills both aggressors.
Despite lacking a cohesive plot line and certainly not lifting the spirits of the viewer in any way, “Wild Tales” was enjoyable and at times profound, even if bizarre and often mildly uncomfortable to watch. In its own exaggerated way, the film touches on the natural human inclination for revenge and, at times, satisfied the desire for redemption, even at a high cost. The fluidity of the six different scenes and the common theme that each one shared prevented the movie from becoming confusing.
Music was used sparingly but appropriately and complemented the overall emotions established by the action onscreen. The actors, though unknown to most American viewers, were talented and did a great job at maintaining just the appropriate amount of ridiculousness and surrealism. The plot lines were riddled with sarcasm, irony and bits of humor. The acting went a long way toward fully conveying these elements, especially in light of the limitations of translation and subtitles.
Overall, the movie earns a solid four stars for its unique format and engaging (if sometimes mildly disturbing) plot lines, great acting, stellar directing and fantastic use of surrealism. However, this recommendation comes with caution, as most mainstream viewers may be looking for something with a more traditional plot arc and style. Furthermore, viewers must be prepared for the numerous scenes that are openly graphic and verging on the offensive. However, for the viewer who wants something non-traditional, thought-provoking and slightly artsy, “Wild Tales” is a great movie that truly earns its status as an Oscar nominee.