Argentine director Damián Szifrón is about to break out in a major way, internationally. His dark comedy-thriller Wild Tales, a collection of six revenge stories that he wrote and directed, reportedly received a ten-minute standing ovation when it premiered at Cannes.
The film features a variety of bitterly funny stories about ordinary people taking retribution on bureaucrats, their family and even someone with road rage. With their actions rooted in a misery that an audience can clearly understand, it is no surprise that this crowd-pleaser has been winning the approval of audiences worldwide, including those at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month.
Wild Tales also has a fantastic ensemble cast – North American crowds will likely recognize Ricardo Darin, who appears in the “Little Bomb” segment, from The Secret in Their Eyes – and a world-famous producer, Pedro Almodóvar. It has received stellar reviews in Szifrón’s native Argentina and is set for an early 2015 release in North America. (You can check out our capsule review of the film from our TIFF coverage here.)
While at the festival, I had the chance to sit down with Damián Szifrón for an exclusive interview to talk about where the darkly funny tales came from, how spaghetti westerns influenced the film and why his late father deserves a story credit.
Check it out below and enjoy!
How surprised were you by the reaction of the film at Cannes?
Damián Szifrón: A lot. I mean, it was the first time I was screening the film with an audience. I don’t want to say it’s a comedy, but it has a lot of humor, and at some point, you have to trust a lot of your material because the laughs are not there while editing or processing the different aspects of the film. Finally, when you reach the audience and everything works, you connect with the moment in which you imagine for the first time that some characters, some lines, some conflict give people a very deep feeling.
What makes the film so enjoyable is that a lot of these scenes are inspired by moments of ordinary frustration that we can recognize. We can understand getting a parking ticket and being mad at the system. Were any of these stories directly inspired by something that happened to you?
Damián Szifrón: I would say all of them in a way. I mean, I could fill a plane with characters I’ve hated during my whole life. And there’s a single person who was very rude to my father when I was a kid… like in the episode with the restaurant. It’s not a politician, but there is a person. Then, in the “Road Rage” chapter, I’m more like the character in the old car. But I am not brave and that strong. I often go driving quietly on the road and suddenly, this asshole comes from behind with a very fast and powerful car, saying, ‘Get the hell out of here! This is my road.’ And I won’t move. I would stay there, but of course, I will let him go. Once I was driving and the other man went ahead and gave me the finger, so I imagined, what if I were strong and I found him a few miles ahead with a flat tire? So that’s how that [story] came out.
The one with the tow truck… a lot of times the tow truck company took my car away. In Buenos Aires, that happens every day almost. They are truly not well organized. It does not say where you can and cannot park easily. It’s hard to know this, because they are a business going on and they want to take cars. They need to take cars. That drives you mad for a few days. The one with the tow truck, my father once told me that one time, somebody’s going to put dynamite in the car… and let the tow truck take it. That’s a great idea!
He deserves a story credit.
Damián Szifrón: He died a few months ago. I dedicated the whole film to him. I should share the writing credit for that story. The one with the family… you’re always afraid that something happens to your child, so I can connect to that one. I’ve been to some weddings where everybody knew something that the bride didn’t or that the groom didn’t. I guess I took the first image of each story from real life and then I transported those images to the world of images, genres and imagination, and I played with them.
Which of these stories came to you first?
Damián Szifrón: The first one [shown in the film] came first and the last one [shown in the film] came last. The shorts are today in the same order that I wrote them. It’s not that I decided to put them in that order [for that reason]. I played with different orders, and after screening the movie in Cannes, somebody asked me about that. I discovered that they are in their natural order.