Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes) Review
From the romantic (Paris, je t’aime (2006)) to the dramatic (The Turning (2013)) to the downright bizarre (The ABCs of Death (2012)), portmanteau films of recent years certainly make for varied and compelling viewing. Yet however many directors and writers are behind an anthology film, and however much each differs in content, the one pitfall they usually fall into is that they often include some weaker, boring shorts, resulting in an inconsistent film in which you can quickly lose your interest. This is just one of the reasons I was so pleasantly surprised by Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes, 2014), a Spanish language film produced by Pedro Almodóvar, and the latest film that adopts the anthology approach of storytelling.
Gripping from the immediate start and before the title credits have even rolled, Wild Tales begins with a shocking short (not least because it mirrors a recent event) and doesn’t relinquish its hold on you until the final frame. This pace is maintained throughout the rest of the film, writer-director Damián Szifron making the most of each vignette’s short running time by almost immediately kicking off the action in each story, resulting in six tense and relentless tales each linked by a theme of vengeance.
A satisfying dark, comic tone also unites the shorts, macabre twists and turns aplenty throughout each of them, the funniest two being the increasingly ridiculous ‘The Strongest’ (‘El más fuerte’) and ‘Until Death Do Us Part’ (‘Hasta que la muerte nos separe’), the final frenzied tale which neatly ties up the film, and that shows exactly why you shouldn’t mess with a newlywed bride.
Yet while each of the shorts takes place as if within the same revenge-fuelled world, each also has its own personality and feel to it, a stylistic choice that Szifron and cinematographer Javier Julia discuss in the informative ‘Making Of’ included in the extras of this Blu-ray release (alongside an interesting yet brief interview with the director and the usual trailer). Ranging from the beautiful Western-like vistas of ‘The Strongest’, the claustrophobic interiors of ‘The Proposal’ (‘La Propuesta’), and the frantic, kinetic camerawork of ‘Until Death Do Us Part’, such subtle differences like these make each film stand out in their own unique way, differences that the high definition of the disc perfectly enhances.
While a few of the stories in Wild Tales can certainly be described as highlights, most of all the intense ‘The Rats’ (‘Las Ratas’) and the aforementioned, hilarious ‘Until Death Do Us Part’, none of the vignettes can be described as weak or forgettable. Each is a superbly written, seamless story, with strong characterisation and well-rounded characters who we instantly connect with, all of whom are expertly performed by a brilliant cast (especially Erica Rivas as the bride in the final film and Ricardo Darín as the lead in ‘Little Bomb’ (‘Bombita’)). At its heart it feels like a continuous story rather than six separate ones, perhaps due to the fact that it is the creation of Szifron alone rather than several directors, as would usually be the case with anthology films. Yet it is all the better and more fascinating for this.
Portmanteau films such as this so rarely get it right, but Wild Tales has everything down to a tee. A brilliant, well-executed idea, and a pleasingly fun watch.