“Anger is a temporary madness” said the Roman poet Horace. Relatos Salvajes, a new film from Argentina, explores the thin line that separates ordinary civilised people from a descent into furious self-destruction. Composed of disconnected short stories, it shows people being tipped over the edge because of their friends and family, strangers on the way, or a Kafkaesque bureaucracy.
In these Wild Tales, you’ll see how the rich exploit the poor. You’ll be disgusted and appalled, but also entertained.
Before watching this film, I hadn’t known that Argentinians had a reputation for black humour. There’s black humour here in spades, like the chef contemplating the murder of one of her customers:
“If rat poison is past its expiry date, does that make it more or less effective?”
As the action shifts from deserted highways to society weddings, it’s almost impossible to predict how each story will end. The best features Ricardo Darín as Simón, a world-weary everyman whose life is ruined by a car-clamping agency. In a wonderfully restrained performance, Darín shows us all the pent-up frustration that comes from modern life in Argentina. Up against a faceless system where every apparatchik shrugs their shoulders and refuses to accept responsibility for their actions, Simón seems uttely powerless. Except that he’s not. Simón, you see, happens to work as a demolition expert…
Relatos Salvajes is out now in the US (distributed by Warner Bros.) and has a print with English subtitles. As a non-native Spanish speaker, I have to admit that I needed them a lot. Argentinian Spanish has the nicest accent in the language (it sounds like Italian due to large-scale immigration from that country) but it is difficult to understand for someone unfamiliar with it, especially in the mouths of the rogues and villains that populate this movie.