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‘Wild Tales’ looks at revenge, responsibility and karma

“Wild Tales” (“Relatos salvages”) (2014). Cast: Dario Grandinetti, María Marull, Mónica Villa, Rita Cortese, Julieta Zylberberg, César Bordón, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Walter Donado, Ricardo Darin, Nancy Dupláa, Oscar Martínez, María Onetto, Osmar Núñez, Germán De Silva, Érica Rivas, Diego Gentile, Javier Pedersoli, Lucila Mangone, Héctor Drachtman, Diego Velázquez, Alan Daicz, Ramiro Vayo, Marcelo Pozzi, Margarita Molfino. Director: Damián Szifron. Screenplay: Damián Szifron. Web site. Trailer.

When we’ve been wronged, many of us no doubt want to seek restitution. But how far do we go with this? When do we cross the line between seeking redress and pursuing vengeance at all costs? Those are among the questions addressed in the hilarious Argentine anthology comedy, “Wild Tales.”

“Wild Tales” consists of six vignettes that explore different aspects of revenge and its consequences, five of which are wickedly funny, with a sixth that’s more serious in nature. The stories include the following:

Pasternak tells the story of an airplane full of passengers who all have a common – and unexpected – association with one another. Shortly after takeoff, Salgado (Dario Grandinetti), a music critic who once served as chairman of a panel of thesis judges at a conservatory, strikes up a friendly conversation with one of his fellow passengers, Isabel (María Marull), a fashion model. In the course of their chat, Salgado learns that he and Isabel have an ironic connection: Isabel’s onetime boyfriend, Gabriel Pasternak, a would-be classical musician, was once one of Salgado’s thesis candidates. He laughs and says he’ll never forget Mr. Pasternak because his work was so terrible, an opinion Isabel shares with an acknowledging chuckle. But, if this coincidence weren’t enough, another passenger who overhears their conversation (Mónica Villa) mentions that she was one of Gabriel’s high school teachers, noting that he was a bumbling student. The teacher’s admission subsequently gets the attention of other passengers and crew (Javier Pedersoli, Lucila Mangone, among others), all of whom say they know Gabriel, too, each acknowledging his quirks, faults and reputation. So how is it that all of these seemingly unrelated yet commonly connected people have ended up on the same plane? That’s what viewers will come to find out.

• In Las Ratas (The Rats), a stop at a roadside diner serves up more than expected. When Mr. Cuenca (César Bordón), a smart-mouthed malcontent, pops in for a bite to eat, he’s greeted by Moza (Julieta Zylberberg), the restaurant’s sweet young waitress. Cuenca’s insulting sarcasm unnerves Moza, raising suspicions that she’s met him before. It then dawns on her that he’s a loan shark who caused her family to lose their home, prompting her father’s suicide and forcing Moza and her widowed mother to move to a new town. In relating her story to the cook (Rita Cortese), a gruff, snarly ex-con, Moza says she’s going to tell Cuenca off. But the cook says a scolding isn’t nearly enough punishment for what he did. She suggests putting rat poison in his food, but Moza dismisses the suggestion, saying that her idea goes too far. The cook, however, has other plans. And, as serving time approaches, the heat gets turned up on more than just the stove.

• In El más fuerte (The Strongest), a pleasant drive in the country takes an unexpected dramatic turn. As well-heeled businessman Diego Iturralde (Leonardo Sbaraglia) embarks on a road trip in his new luxury sedan, he gets stuck behind a slow-moving road hog (Walter Donado) in a dilapidated heap. When Diego attempts to pass, the selfish motorist won’t let him by, either. The incident quickly escalates and turns ugly, and, even though Diego eventually manages to get past, he can’t help but hurl insults and flip the bird as he flies by. Not long thereafter, however, Diego suffers a flat tire, forcing him to stop and make repairs on the roadside. And, in no time, Diego’s nemesis catches up with him to exact revenge. The road rage that prevailed previously pales by comparison to what comes next, with results beyond anything anyone suspects – including the protagonists.

• Aggravating the wrong person can carry huge ramifications, as becomes apparent in Bombita (Little Bomb). Simón Fischer (Ricardo Darin), an engineer for a controlled demolition company, becomes irritated when his vehicle is towed while picking up a cake for his daughter’s birthday party. The reason? He contends he wasn’t parked in a no-parking zone. But, when he attempts to claim his vehicle, he’s met with towing fees, a parking fine and an uncaring bureaucracy. Then, when he arrives late for the party, he catches grief from his wife, Victoria (Nancy Dupláa), who says she’s tired of his excuses for putting his family behind everything else. And, if all that weren’t bad enough, things grow even worse thereafter. But everyone who wrongs Simón should remember what he does for a living; after all, he just might draw upon his skills and resources to get even.

• Making a deal with the devil is fraught with perils, as is evident in La propuesta (The Proposal). When Santiago (Alan Daicz), the son of a wealthy businessman, strikes a pregnant woman in a hit-and-run accident while driving impaired, he appeals to his father, Mauricio (Oscar Martínez), for help. Realizing that the car is likely to be implicated in the incident (even if the driver isn’t), Mauricio devises a plan to shield his son. He thus offers a proposition to his longtime groundskeeper, Jose (Germán De Silva): take the fall for the accident (an admission for which he’ll likely receive a short, “tolerable” jail sentence) in exchange for a huge payout. But, when Mauricio’s greedy lawyer (Osmar Núñez), a corrupt prosecutor (Diego Velázquez) and the victim’s husband (Ramiro Vayo) become involved, circumstances deteriorate rapidly, leading to an outcome worse than what anyone expected.

• It’s been said hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and that theory gets put to the test in Hasta que la muerte nos separe (Till Death Do Us Part). The wedding of Romina (Érica Rivas) and Ariel (Diego Gentile) should be a happy occasion. But, when the bride learns her new husband has invited a woman with whom he had an affair (Margarita Molfino), she flees in tears. Romina escapes to the rooftop of the hotel hosting the reception, where she runs into a kitchen worker having a smoke (Marcelo Pozzi), who quickly proceeds to “cheer her up.” Moments later, when Ariel arrives, he finds his new bride in a compromised position, but Romina expresses no guilt. In fact, she threatens to take Ariel for everything he has, at which point she returns to what’s left of the reception as a changed woman. That return, however, fuels additional incidents that make what happened previously look like a cakewalk by comparison. Still, they say “love conquers all,” and the potential for that outcome strangely hangs in the balance, despite everything that’s occurred. (What a world.)

If it’s not already apparent, the stories in “Wild Tales” are all exercises in “be careful what you wish for,” especially where matters of vengeance are concerned. As conscious creation practitioners know, the process makes it possible to manifest virtually anything our hearts desire through the deployment of our beliefs working in conjunction with the power of our divine collaborator. And, with all options on the table, it’s a scenario that can work wonders – or wreak havoc.

In situations in which we feel we’ve been wronged, it may be natural for many of us to feel as though we want to get even, to exact what we think of as our “rightful” revenge. With sufficient clarity and focus, it may indeed be easy to manifest what we want in this regard, too. However, we must be careful to consider that these actions carry tremendous responsibility, not to mention consequences. This is true for both the perpetrators and victims of these materializations.

It’s easy to see how this principle affects those undertaking such ventures. In El más fuerte, for example, does the road hog really think he’ll be able to get away with his actions without consequences? Most would probably look upon what he does and believe that there surely will be hell to pay. In considering Diego’s response, many might feel that he’s justified in his actions – not realizing that his actions carry consequences, too, no matter how entitled he (and others) might believe he is in carrying them out.

As tempting as it might be to get even, it may not always be the wisest course. This calls upon us to carefully pick and choose our responses. For instance, making one’s feelings known without pursuing an accompanying act of aggression could be the best choice in some circumstances, as Moza’s actions suggest in Las Ratas.

Of course, this is not meant to imply that those who are wronged should just roll over and capitulate, either. As Simón wrestles with the greed of the bureaucracy and its minions in Bombita, he doesn’t hesitate to make his feelings known, even if those similarly affected don’t. He refuses to accept the status quo, lashing out while others just put their heads down and try to make their way through their circumstances as quickly and easily as possible. Their acts of complicity, while understandable, unfortunately serve to perpetuate the unjust creations perpetrated by their transgressors. They thus contribute to the materialization of this mass-created event. In that sense, then, they’re as much a part of the problem as those who concocted it in the first place. Simón, by his acts, seeks to be part of the solution, though, given what he’s up against, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to accomplish his goal all on his own. But his creations still serve a purpose by drawing attention to an issue that, one hopes, others will get behind and support to realize a different outcome moving forward.

As the film makes clear, those in positions of wealth, control and authority should be especially cognizant of the foregoing principles. In all six stories, those wielding these powers without regard for others fail to consider their need to tread carefully where those affected are concerned. If they don’t, they’re sure to get their comeuppance at some point – and most likely in extremely damaging ways. Those who wronged the unseen central character in Pasternak, for example, may find themselves in for a rather rude awakening. Such is the case also for Mauricio and his cohorts in La propuesta, for Cuenca in Las Ratas and for Ariel in Hasta que la muerte nos separe.

The bottom line in all this is that we must be aware of the beliefs we hold and what we seek to create with them. As any responsible conscious creation practitioner knows, we run the risk of tremendous peril, both for ourselves and others, when we obliviously engage in acts of un-conscious creation, the practice where we either ignore the process and let life unfold “randomly” or where we’re so focused on the outcome that we fail to take into account any of the ramifications that potentially accompany our acts of manifestation. The can of worms that may open as a result of this can be substantial, frequently reminding us that karma can indeed be a bitch.

“Wild Tales” is a raucously funny offering, at least in five of its sequences. The sixth, La propuesta, is considerably more serious than the others and, because of that, doesn’t quite mesh with the rest in terms of tone (even if it is thematically linked). The writing and acting are spot-on throughout, leaving viewers with no doubt about what the characters are experiencing, especially in Pasternak, El más fuerte and Bombita. Credit writer-director Damián Szifron for a job well done.

With all that said, however, a strong word of caution is in order: This film is definitely NOT for the squeamish or those who are easily offended. Some viewers might also find themselves feeling guilty or embarrassed for laughing at things that they ordinarily wouldn’t find funny. The picture’s uncompromising nature, though never gratuitous or grotesque, makes its points abundantly clear, presenting its material in a style akin to a tempered version of a Quentin Tarantino film. If you believe this is something more than you can handle, then stay away from this movie. But, if you’re someone who can laugh at our own folly without regret, then check this one out – you’re not likely to be disappointed.

“Wild Tales” has received a number of significant accolades for its efforts. The picture earned Critics Choice and Academy Award nods for best foreign language film, as well as a Palme d’Or nomination at the Cannes Film Festival, the event’s highest honor. The film is primarily showing at theaters specializing in independent and foreign cinema, and some of its online marketing materials may be found under the alternate title “Savage Tales.”

When others have transgressed against us, we might find it difficult to hold our tongues (and, from a conscious creation standpoint, even more difficult to “hold our beliefs”). As satisfying as exacting revenge may seem in the short run, there could be long-term consequences that might be far worse than anything perpetrated against us. So, when faced with such circumstances, we need to assess our options and consider a measured response, one that makes it point without ricocheting back on us. To do otherwise runs the risk of having even more heaped upon us than what we initially suffered, leaving us to sort out far more than what we ever bargained for.

Copyright © 2015, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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