2014 Film, Film, Foreign Language Film, Oscars

(Relatos salvajes) Wild Tales — And I am still looking over my shoulder


I find myself looking over my shoulder, especially at work because I am often sitting with my back to the open door. Wild Tales (a 2014 Academy Award® nominee for Foreign Language Film) is a dark, satirical comedy from Argentina that will have you squirming in your seat as you witness the truth about humanity. I enjoyed this squirming because I attend movies in order to face reality, not to escape it, and human experience is more often than not (extremely) farcical. I (very) often find myself wishing that more people felt more liberated to act according to their true feelings and not simply “keep calm” because of the expectation that seems to dominate, which is that people can act ridiculously toward us, but we must not, through our reactions, show them just how ridiculous they are. With these reactions, we are encouraged to do what, in my mind, is the most dangerous action–withhold the truth. In order to stop encouraging disrespectful, uncritical, selfish behavior, we need to react truthfully more often–and sometimes that includes “flipping out.” After all, the perpetrators of ridiculousness have figured out that they can get away with their plentiful lack of decorum, or they are indignant when faced with consequences. That indignation is what causes me to look over my shoulder, hence the “Pasternak” (Dario Grandinetti, Maria Marull, Monica Villa) story. Wild Tales is an anthology film, and the stories are linked by theme, not by plot. “Pasternak” is the first and begins and ends before the opening credits.

Wild Tales (directed by Damián Szifron) is well done and extremely satisfying because it presents people who go through with those truthful reactions. Those reactions seem extreme (and are extreme), but if we did not bottle up our feelings so often, maybe those extremes would not be so prevalent–or maybe they still would be because people are awfully horrible to each other for all sorts of reasons. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so one better be prepared. Perhaps the worst part of facing someone that has greatly wronged you in the past (to the point of ruining your life and the life of your loved one) is finding out that the person has not changed at all and is as contemptible as before. Should all decency be thrown away in order to teach that person a lesson? (“Las ratas” – Rita Cortese, Julieta Zylberberg, César Bordón). You never know what a person is going through in his life when you justifiably throw away all decency in order to let him know he is acting inappropriately. The sheer stubbornness that exists in us cannot be underestimated when we desire to assert our superiority and prove that we will not allow another to have the last word. “El más fuerte” (Leonardo Sbaraglia, Walter Donado) takes this to a level that started my first fit of squirming (enjoyably) in the theater.

“Bombita” (Ricardo Darin, Nancy Dupláa) is yet another story of someone pushed over the edge who does not simply shake it off and deal with it. It is about how we all often feel when we go out during the day. No matter how much we try to avoid trouble, trouble always finds us, and our only hope rests in the lap of blind followers of the “system” who cannot or will not help us because they are simply focused on “doing their job” and not on justice or simple common sense. In “La propuesta” (Oscar Martínez, María Onetto, Osmar Núñez, Germán de Silva), a patriarch throws up his arms and refuses to take responsibility for his son’s mistakes and continue to deal with opportunists only out for his money. Though able to use money to buy his way out of problems, he realizes it is no longer worth it. He angrily retreats, and yes, he has to face indignation from all around. But, “Hasta que la muerte nos separe” (Érica Rivas, Diego Gentile) reminds us that sometimes if both parties fight it out (in public) until they are mentally (and physically) exhausted and everything is out on the table and out of their systems, they can, in fact, reconcile. And there is that theme again: getting out the truth works.