Relatos Salvajes (Wild Tales) appeals to the quiescent evil residing in the darkest corner of my soul. That evil in me awakens from its not-so-long slumber and gleefully celebrates all six standalone stories that make up this wildly fascinating black comedy written and directed by Damián Szifron.
I started watching the film in a reclining position at 11pm, but after 4 minutes and 49 seconds, I sat up straight and gave it my 101% attention. What happened at 4 minutes and 49 seconds? On a plane in midair, a runway model (María Marull), a classical music critic (Darío Grandinetti) and a grade school teacher (Mónica Villa), learned that they have more in common than they think. And for me, that was the start of a rollercoaster ride offered by Relatos Salvajes, a deliciously sinful film that is good for the soul. 🙂
The opening credits rolled in after Pasternak, the first short. Images of different species of Kingdom Animalia in their natural habitats, led by predators like lions, tigers and birds of prey, came to view. Unbeknownst to me at that time, it was a prelude to some of the worst behaviors of the so-called superior members of this kingdom.
Las Ratas (The Rats) immediately followed the parade of carnivores. The second short is not without its own share of predator, a loan shark and politician-slash-buwaya-in-the-making in Cuenca (César Bordón). Of all the diners in all the towns in all the world, Cuenca walked into one that employs a down-on-her-luck timid waitress (Julieta Zybelberg) and a gung-ho cook (Rita Cortese). The events that followed made me assess my own moral compass and found it pointing opposite the true north. And it remained there for the duration of the film.
El Más Fuerte (The Strongest) came after Las Ratas, and is my favorite. It started out innocently, with a confident corporate man (Leonardo Sbaraglia) driving an Audi through a deserted but picturesque road, then he came across the driver of a beat-up truck (Walter Donado). To say that things became interesting after their first encounter would be an understatement. In a span of 17 minutes and with the intermittent “Lady, Lady, Lady” song in the background, Sbaraglia and Donado showed the lengths men would go through in the spirit of competition and bloated ego. The kicker is the last line of the short, and the last shot is worth all the nail-biting moments I had to endure to get to it. I realized that sometimes it is hard to choose which person to cheer for in a movie, so I decided to cheer for both men. It was the most fun I have had since Game of Thrones.
Bombita (Little Bomb) is a little subdued compared to the first three shorts, yet it is the most cathartic in the entire movie. Bombita is about Simón, an engineer (the flawless Ricardo Darín), who had a couple of bad encounters with the parking administration. Simón’s experiences started out as mundane things that happen in everyday life, but his final reaction is something out of the ordinary that never come to fruition majority of the time. The lurking evil in the deepest recesses of my being applauded Simón for what he had done. Although Bombita was too predictable (more predictable than the first two shorts), Darín’s presence more than make up for this weakness. His close-up shots are priceless and swoon-worthy.
The penultimate story is La Propuesta (The Proposal). It is about how the wealthy parents (Oscar Martínez and María Onetto) of a spoiled young adult (Allan Daicz) did everything in their power to do what they think was best for him. Martínez was outstanding all throughout as the patriarch. Even when he was just shaving his beard, he was magnificent. It was a little long, but like El Más Fuerte, the twist at the end was worth the while.
Of all the crazy stories that preceded it, Hasta Que La Muerte Nos Separe (Until Death Do Us Part) still topped the charts of cray-cray and was a fitting end to the rollercoaster ride of evil deeds. It was the wedding reception of Romina (Érica Rivas) and Ariel (Diego Gentile), and they were surrounded by their well-dressed loved ones. The bride was the most carefree person in the room until she made one phone call that changed the atmosphere of the happiest night of her life. Hasta Que La Muerte Nos Separe is the long and short of marriage packed during the wedding day. Romina is my favorite character because she was over-the-top. She was out of her mind but lucid at the same time, and her actions are gasp-inducing. I laughed out loud when she asked the cameraman to “shoot this”. And that ending, wow! It took the cake, literally and figuratively.
Relatos Salvajes shows the perfect combination of tongue-in-cheek humor and wicked revenge in one solid punch to the gut. But Relatos Salvajes is more than what meets the eye, it is also a commentary to some of the most despicable human behaviors of individuals and social classes. It is not afraid to show corruption, avarice, carnality and excessive ego of the reigning kings of the Kingdom Animalia.