Rollicking ruminations on rage and revenge

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Wild Tales (MA). Director: Damián Szifrón. Starring: Darío Grandinetti, María Marull, Julieta Zylberberg, Rita Cortese, Érica Rivas, Diego Gentile, Leonardo Sbaraglia et al. 122 minutes

A man sets in motion an elaborate scheme to get back at everyone who has ever done him wrong. A road rage incident spawns an escalating chain of violent retaliations. A wedding celebration descends into a pit of emotional and physical violence after the bride learns her new husband has been cheating on her. Wild Tales presents six often blood-soaked stories of vengeance. And it’s a comedy.

This maniacal anthology of short cinematic stories earned an Oscar nomination (Best Foreign Language film) this year along with a bundle of other accolades in its native Argentina and beyond. It’s not hard to see why. Endlessly inventive and with some serious satirical bite, its ruminations on rage and revenge in the modern world lend substance to the guilty pleasure of its cathartic violence.

Many of the stories highlight the inherently farcical nature of tit-for-tat. In ‘The Strongest’, one man overtakes another on a remote highway, insulting his fellow driver as he passes. When a blown tyre forces him to pull over a few minutes later, the other man catches up with him and goes about trying to teach him a lesson. That is, until the first man sees an opportunity to get his own back.

Neither man is going to be easily outdone. Macho pride drives each successive retaliation towards extreme levels, and events spiral beyond control or reason. Szifron executes this story with a high level of suspense and savage humour that is typical of most of the six stories. The short, sharp opening tale, ‘Pasternak’, set on a passenger jet, in particular achieves similar levels of shock and hilarity.

Some of the stories craftily consider the pressures of modern life, and the strictures and expectations of society and family. ‘Until Death Do Us Part’ depicts one of the most disastrous post-nuptials celebrations imaginable, with both bride and groom suffering numerous, increasingly severe degradations at each other’s hands during the most epic and painfully public of marital disputes.

The darkly comic ‘Little Bomb’ shows a man’s life and mind unravel as he rages against the perceived injustice of a parking infringement penalty.  The penalty and his response to it cause him to lose his family, his job and, arguably, his mind. Frustrated and enraged by the petty bureaucratic absurdities against which he has no legal defence, he decides to take matters into his own hands.

There are a few pointed comments, too, on socioeconomic inequality, and the weighing of money against morality. In one of the strongest stories, ‘The Proposal’, the son of a wealthy man kills a pregnant woman in a hit-and-run. With the public in a frenzy, the police closing in and the woman’s husband swearing revenge, the father offers to pay his groundskeeper to take the blame.

The boy himself is wracked with guilt and wants to confess, but the father determinedly negotiates with the groundskeeper, his own lawyer and a prosecutor who wants in on the action, trying to buy a scenario in which his son and family will escape the consequences they deserve. This is one of the most sombre stories in the anthology, a slow-burner with a genuine sting in its tail.

The quality of the stories in Wild Tales fluctuates – the second story in the film, ‘The Rats’, about a waitress facing an unexpected opportunity for revenge against a man who ruined her life, doesn’t quite find its feet. But Szifron manages the overall tone masterfully, swivelling from mild to maniacal but with a persistent undertone of absurdity, that underlines the senselessness of it all.


Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is assistant editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: Wild Tales, Damián Szifrón, Darío Grandinetti, María Marull, Julieta Zylberberg, Érica Rivas

 

 

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This is a must-see movie, thanks for the review. I can only hope the movie makes it to our small town cinema! The storylines remind me a little of Charles D'Ambrosio's very funny, and bleak, short story "Hell House".
Pam | 20 May 2015


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