“We are animals, and as animals, we want to be free,” says writer/director Damian Szifron about the characters in his film “Wild Tales” (listen to our podcast interview below). “We want to be wild. Our instinct has its needs. At a point, we get used to repressing our instincts on a daily basis, and we live in a society where you don’t feel free everyday. It’s easy for us to understand that when we were slaves there was no freedom, or in a totalitarian regime there is no freedom, but sometimes it’s not easy to understand that in these days, in our country, we are not free, and our lives are determined by a lot of things that we don’t choose and that we don’t decide. We assume them as normal.”
The film, nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, comprises several disconnected shorts detailing the extreme ways in which everyday people react to life’s many inconveniences. As Szifron says, “Most of us get depressed or stressed. And some of us, very few, explode. This is a film about the ones that explode. All of the characters in this film lose their minds, and they go wild. They go completely savage.”
According to the director, “Wild Tales” began life as “a non-desired film.” He goes on to explain, “I was trying to make other films. Before ‘Wild Tales,’ I made two feature films and two TV series, all between 2001 and 2006. And then I dedicated myself to writing for almost seven years.” During this period, he developed several feature-length screenplays, including a western, a romance, and a science-fiction epic. Because his inspiration knew no bounds, pretty soon the filmmaker had completed a variety of short scripts as well.
“I didn’t know what to do with them,” he says, “but by the time I wrote the third or the fourth one, I could tell that they were all connected thematically and energetically, and that they belonged to the same album in a way, to the same universe, to the same constellation.” He then compiled the scripts and passed them along to a longtime producing partner, and according to Szifron, “He said, ‘We should do this right now! This is very fresh; you can feel the creative freedom.’ And I agreed. I think the film expressed a lot of stuff in a very economical way.”
When it came to stringing the films together to form a narrative, Szifron drew inspiration from “rock albums or jazz albums.” He compares the film to a concert, saying, “You have different tracks: one is slow, the other one is fast, oppressive, the other one is explosive.” It’s also like the circus: “You have the guy who enters the lion’s cage, the guy on the tightrope, the magician, and you enjoy all those numbers and see them within the context of a single experience. That for me is what this film is: it’s a single cinematic experience.”
“Wild Tales” currently sits in third place in our experts’ predictions with 14/1 odds, behind “Ida” in first (2/7) and “Leviathan” in second (15/2). Check out our full interview below for more on how Szifron brought these wild tales to life.