One mark of a good film is if it can overcome the language barrier and entertain people of any nationality. Oscar-nominated Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes) achieves this and delivers one of the best foreign language experiences out there.
Wild Tales consists of six separate stories, all with a constant theme of the primitive nature of man and how aggressive we can be. The first is a comically horrific aircraft flight, followed by a vengeful waitress, to an extreme case of road rage, transitioning to the bad luck of a demolitions expert, leading into a tragic case of hit and run, all concluding in a complete nightmare of a wedding.
Each contains some of the best black comedy I’ve seen in a film, up there with the likes of a Tarantino script. It is this dark humour that disguises the message about our primal instincts, masterfully stopping the film from getting too bogged down with heavy statements and keeping it as a form of entertainment.
The dark humour comes from the characters reacting to fairly relatable circumstances in the most extreme ways. Wild Tales weakens the moral walls that hold the majority of us back from performing aggressive acts and shows what happens if we listened to that little voice in the back of our head. It is an incredibly thought-provoking concept and one carried out almost faultlessly. Even the opening credits allude to this theme of primal instincts with a montage of wild animals.
Primitive nature is not an original issue to be explored in film or TV. These themes have been used in films such as Cast Away and the many, many zombie survival movies. A constant theme in each of these stories is that when society is stripped from people, their morals become less important as they resort to their basic survival instinct. In contrast Wild Tales places its characters in normal social environments. The characters are then written in such a way that their moral boundaries are weakened. The entertaining and fascinating thing to watch is how these walls slowly crumble. This gives quite a commonly used theme an original take.
“A constant theme in each of these stories is that when society is stripped from people, their morals become less important as they resort to their basic survival instinct.”
The challenge with making an anthology rather than an individual story is that there will always be a weak link in the chain. Take a solid gold coin and put it in a bag of diamonds and it will seem worse than the diamonds. This is exactly what happens here, with the hit-and-run story acting as the gold coin. The dark humour that the film does so well is severely lacking here and the primitive aggression present throughout are just absent. Instead it’s quite a standard look at greed and corruption that has been seen before.
Despite being one of the stronger entries in the anthology, the story detailing the bomb disposal expert lets itself down at the end. Although this does not ruin the story entirely it does seem to controversially promote terrorism. It is a shame, as up until the end this is perhaps the most relatable of the six. Following this man through his daily life experiencing the worst possible luck imaginable cleverly depicts the little annoyances in everyday life that we all experience.
Interestingly, the diner story explores an interesting duality present in everyone’s mind: the desire to do good or bad. A waitress serves a customer who has wronged her in the past, all the while monologuing on how she wishes she could get revenge. The cook proceeds to encourage her to do so, revealing the stories metaphor. The waitress is the morally bound side of humanity, not wanting to take revenge as it is not considered ‘right’, whereas the cook represents the more primitive side of humanity wanting to take revenge. It is really enjoyable watching these two sides argue. The cold calculating side of the cook is excellent contrast to the timid, morally-justified waitress. The resulting conclusion does not disappoint.
Despite being one of the more simple sets, the diner scene is by far the best in visual terms. This is thanks to the excellent cinematography at play here. The way the camera transitions to each beautiful shot by following the characters gives quite a small set an excellent feeling of motion, really helping the story keep an excellent pace. In some cases these are set up in a similar way to the continual shot tactic used by Academy Award Winner Birdman.
“The challenge with making an anthology rather than an individual story is that there will always be a weak link in the chain.”
The idea of duality is also present in the story between the two drivers engaged in their extreme road rage. In this case the two represent opposite sides within society, and their different approaches to conflict. The interaction between these two characters is intense and it escalates to an extreme end. Approaching this end however, the two start to behave in similar ways until they both become their identical primitive selves. This is an excellent way of showing how ridiculous class separation is. Take away social structures and it doesn’t matter if you were born rich or poor – when it comes down to it we all fight to survive.
Although a strong anthology piece throughout, the two stories that outshine the rest is the first and the last story. The beginning flight is an excellent metaphor for the start of a journey while the end wedding is an excellent juxtaposition of the ‘happily ever after’ cliché so often employed.
The horrific aircraft flight begins excellently, making it appear like a normal flight that eases the audience into a false sense of security. With a few intelligently written twists slowly building to a worrying revelation, this segment concludes in one of the funniest moments in the entire film, masterfully drawing the audience into the type of experience that they are about to be treated to.
To top this excellent journey off, the film arrives at the poster tale: The Wedding. Few weddings have gone worse than this. Starting off from a very small situation, the wedding soon catalysts into complete disaster. Without doubt the star of the show is the bride (Erica Rivas). Her reactions are hysterical without being irritating, which gives the opportunity for her to deliver a monologue that is just terrifying for anyone thinking about getting married.
Each story is a unique exploration of the removal of social and moral boundaries presented in one of the most entertaining cinema experiences of the year so far. Wild Tales is worth any film enthusiast’s time.