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NPR Arts & Life

1 Film, 6 Stories On The 'Pleasure Of Losing Control'

In "Road to Hell,"<em> Wild Tales</em>' third story, Walter Donado plays a man who gets in a fight with a driver on an empty highway. The film opened last year in Argentina and is the country's highest-grossing movie ever.
In "Road to Hell,"<em> Wild Tales</em>' third story, Walter Donado plays a man who gets in a fight with a driver on an empty highway. The film opened last year in Argentina and is the country's highest-grossing movie ever.

The six stories in Relatos salvajes,or Wild Tales,are unrelated adventures — but the Spanish-language anthology, which is up for best foreign language film at the Oscars Sunday, is united by rage.

In each twisted tale, characters become consumed with anger after relatable experiences like getting cut off on the highway, having a car towed or learning of a husband's infidelity. "They cross the line that separates civilization from barbarism," Argentine director Damián Szifron tells NPR's Arun Rath.

Damián Szifron (right) directs Argentine actor Ricardo Darin on the set of <em>Wild Tales</em>. This weekend, the film opened in select theaters in the U.S.
/ Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Damián Szifron (right) directs Argentine actor Ricardo Darin on the set of <em>Wild Tales</em>. This weekend, the film opened in select theaters in the U.S.

The film, which is Argentina's highest-grossing movie ever, is dark and unnerving, yet deeply funny. Szifron says he can't really choose a favorite story. "I love them all, I mean, they are like kids for me — different kids," he says. "I always think of these short stories as vital organs of the same being. So it's not that I can take one out. They all make the movie live."

Szifron tells Rath about the accidental origins of the movie and a moment when he too lost control.


Interview Highlights

On how the film came together

This was an accidental movie for me. I was working on a science fiction trilogy, then I was working a Western and a love story — all at the same time. And so to the new ideas that kept on coming, I tried to compress them to stop them from becoming more feature films. So, as a result, I got these powerful short stories. By the time that I had three or four I discovered that they were all connected and that they all came from the same DNA — that DNA: the pleasure of reaction, the pleasure of losing control.

Érica Rivas plays a bride whose wedding goes terribly wrong in <em>Wild Tales</em>' sixth and final story.
Javier Juliá / Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Érica Rivas plays a bride whose wedding goes terribly wrong in <em>Wild Tales</em>' sixth and final story.

On the extreme, yet relatable elements of each story

This is a film that, for me, is very real. Of course there's a lot of fiction in it and you experience it as if you were watching episodes from Alfred Hitchcock Presents or Twilight Zone or Amazing Stories. But also this is talking, I think, a lot about us. The pleasure of reacting, the pleasure of losing control. I thought of that idea a lot while directing the actors because everything is dramatic but the audience is laughing out loud. So there's something in the middle and I would say that is the pleasure of reaction toward injustice, toward abuse of power, of letting your instincts drive your behavior. There's a particular moment in which all characters cross lines that they enjoy it and we do as well.

On a moment when he became unhinged

I did something a few years ago that I didn't know I was capable of before. Which is I got involved in a fight, in fistfight with two guys and I am not that kind of guy. ... But I was with my wife in a restaurant and it doesn't matter why and I had to do a probation after that for a year ... I had to give cinema lessons to people of low resources, which I enjoyed a lot, I have to say. But I know that there's a point in which you can reach that breaking point. We all can. ... I think I know myself more now and it's not that I succeed[ed] in that fight ... I end up in the hospital as well as the other guys, but to know that you can get there and there's a point in which you lose your fear.

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