An aeroplane flight takes a plunge into the unexpected when the passengers realise they all have something in common. The waitress at a roadside café realises she is serving a man who deserves to die. A small road rage incident between two motorists in the mountains turns with alarming speed into a Duel-like battle for survival. A demolitions expert gets his life destroyed by a parking enforcement company and takes the appropriate measures. A millionaire tries to buy a way out of his son’s complicity in a hit and run, but finds himself quibbling about the financial details. A wedding party goes south in spectacular fashion when the bride realises some ugly truths about her groom.
Wild Tales, a glossy Spanish/Argentine co-production, is a portmanteau affair from writer/director Damián Szifrón, produced by a brace of Almodóvars. It eschews any linking devices or modish title cards and just gets on with delivering its six, well, wild tales, of darkly comical societal breakdown. In all of the stories there is a delicious turning point from a recognisable world where reason holds sway to one of delirious abandonment where its mostly middle-class protagonists utterly lose themselves to the petty delights of revenge and score settling. We end up in a world of murder and mayhem and, in the fourth tale, a heart-warming act of terrorism, entirely able to understand how we got here, but a bit dizzy about how it all escalated so fast.
This is fantastically entertaining stuff, from the knockout , big-budget Buñuelian punch of the opening story onwards, with beautiful photography by Javier Julia, fine music by Gustavo Santaolalla, and not a foot put wrong in editing or performances. There’s a gleeful perversity at work here, as if Szifrón is simultaneously despairing at all this appalling behaviour and finding it hard to hide his delight at the path things have taken. The stories display a welcome versatility of mood and texture: the second is a rain-soaked gloomy Gothic, the third a dusty, savage urbanoia horror in glaring daylight, the fourth an elegantly mounted slow builder. For my money, the fifth tale takes the foot off the gas a little too much, and while it’s cutting, it just doesn’t have the snap of the others. The last episode, ‘Till death do us part’, however, was one of the most exhilarating pieces of celluloid I’ve seen in a long while, a concentrated bomb of depravity and self-abasement captured brilliantly with agile camerawork that had me watching through my fingers (and wondering how close every drunken reception gets to this…). Like an act of revenge, Wild Tales probably isn’t healthy or edifying, but damn, it feels good. Highly recommended.
Watch the trailer: