How does one evaluate how good an anthology film is? Essentially a collection of short films, there often is no overarching plot that connects them, unless there is a framing devise to do so. Do you evaluate the short films individually? One could do that, but it takes away from the experience of seeing them in a sequence specifically designed to communicate with the audience. So what do you evaluate? A method that I’ve read about and generally agree with is to treat the film like a music album. The tracks may vary in their composition, but they are all part of one piece of art, and that piece of art can be evaluated as a whole based on the general feelings the individual tracks give you.
So how does Wild Tales fare under this model? The six short stories are compiled in such a way as to give an introduction with one of the most interesting stories, then start from the bottom and work its way up in an ascending scale on intrigue. The general motif of the picture is revenge and how those who deserve it will get their just deserts, usually in death. That theme is established early, but each successive story toys with the premise in different ways, such as setting two wrongdoers against one another, making the villain a government entity, and deceiving the public as to who the real criminal is after a hit and run.
By slightly ramping up how perverse the idea of revenge is, the theme twists in on itself, conditioning the audience to have certain expectations of how a story will end, only to either follow through or subvert those expectations, and becoming less and less predictable as to which it will do. By the last couple of stories, the expectation of a twist ending or a murderous moment is so conditioned that when it doesn’t happen as you expect, it hits all the harder.
So is Wild Tales a good film? The answer is most assuredly “yes.” To attempt to evaluate the shorts on their own would be an exercise in futility, as they are thematically shallow individually, but the entire album is thematically rich and subject to interpretation. The consistent tone and quality of the shorts is likely due to them being written and directed by one man, Damián Szifron, an Argentinian director whom I hope to see more of in the future, perhaps with a feature length narrative. In the meantime, though, Wild Tales is a hell of an introduction to his work.
What anthology films do you enjoy? Share them in the comments below.