Spitefulness is best served as satire

Argentinean director Damián Szifron’s 2015 Best Foreign Language Academy Award Nominee Wild Tales is a completely jarring and poetic collection of old wives’ tales and urban legends about vengeance and vulnerability. Its characters plan revenge on instinct, using whatever is at their disposal to aid in their gratification.

The film’s common theme of spitefulness and retribution is conveyed throughout six standalone shorts. Characters countermeasure bizarre and foreseeable situations with illegal but heroic, desperate and violent outbursts in order to gain control of their worlds.  

Coincidence and chance become the protagonists throughout, laying once-in-a-lifetime scenarios in front of Szifron’s repressed characters. A forgotten artist is set on teaching a lesson at the same time and in the same place to all of the people who passed him by his whole life.

Next, a waitress ridden of her childhood by a gangster has a chance of revenge while serving him at a restaurant.  

A rich father to a teen who has just hit and run a pregnant woman scrambles to save his family’s reputation and his fortune.

A desert highway showdown between a redneck and rich businessman ends in a crime of passion.

A demolition expert fed up with society’s hold on his marriage and child ends up in jail.

Lastly, at her wedding a bride learns of her husband’s secrets during the first dance and becomes possessed by anger. Guaranteed the most memorable and unsettling moments of the film are during the wedding, you may never hear Bobby Womack’s song “Fly Me to the Moon” the same way again.

Within these personal crises there is a sense of pleasure and enjoyment that the spectator attains. Sympathizing with the characters’ justified retribution iss elating; witnessing the moment when characters turn on their own sense of right and wrong in order to fulfill their desire to lose control becomes addictive. Szifron’s writing is dark, but clever and hilarious.

The form and feel of this film also deserves mention. Javier Julia’s (The Last Elvis, Armando Bo, 2012) cinematography heightens the visual cues that intensify moments of coincidence; we see what the character feels. This connection between the visual and the emotional charges of these enraged characters is also due to the meticulous sound design. The original music by Gustavo Santaolalla personifies characters’ horror-turned-amusement in the sequence of events that leads them to moments of calculative madness. Santaolalla’s music evokes sympathy, and then rage.

Overall, the film Wild Tales is a black comedy, a perversive satire that satisfies the desire to take action against inequalities and injustices that may taunt or betray us, no matter the consequence. This film is clever and the pace feels spontaneous and uncalculated. It is a reminder to beware of who you cross.  

The Yukon Film Society presents the film Wild Tales on Sunday, October 25 at 8 p.m. at the Yukon Arts Centre. For more information go to www.YukonFilmSociety.com.  

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