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Taking in some Wild Tales: Interview with Damián Szifron

The film Wild Tales, by Argentinian writer-director Damián Szifron initially seems not to be for everyone. This collection of six tales is certainly the basest of humour, a look at the reality of human interaction. Then the thought creeps into one’s mind while interviewing Szifron, that there is a choice. One can accept all of the events taking place, or simply look away. In an interview suite at TIFF 2014, sitting next to Szifron on a couch / love seat, with his translator sitting across from us and yet not actually translating and yet still helping out, it becomes clear. We are ready to accept Szifron’s reality.

Scene Creek: I wonder about the reception that your film is going to receive. It is very provocative.

Damián Szifron: Thank you. I take it as a good sign.

SC: A visceral reaction no matter what.

DS: I agree, and I’m glad.

SC: The translation of the title to English just does not seem to capture the movie.

DS: Okay. How would you call it? The original Spanish title is Relatos Salvajes, which was going to be the English “Savage Tales”. But when they announced the line-up for Cannes Film Festival, and Pedro Almodóvar, who directs Cannes, he talked about “Wild Tales”, and in a few minutes it was all over the world. And Pedro, more, he’s one of the producers, He always preferred “Wild” to “Savage”, and I thought “yeah, okay, let’s go Wild”.

SC: I related the Wild more to the opening credit sequence.

DS: Yeah, the Wilderness.

SC: Not so much Savage animals.

DS: Well, they are both Wild and Savage.

SC: Do you see them as Tales, as separate, as interconnected?

DS: Well, they are separate, but they all belong to the same universe. I discovered that after writing three or four of them, some of them just came to my mind after I was writing another feature film, a science-fiction trilogy, a huge one. I spent a lot of years working on that, and I didn’t finish it. So…these kind of stories made me a freer writer, because in one night or two nights, I could finish one. Then another. Then another, and then suddenly, I had a new feature film in my hands, without even trying to.

And yes, they were separate stories, but they were all connected thematically, so they belonged to the same album. I think of this as a rock album, different tracks, and I think that they play together very well.

SC: But they also play a little bit differently.

DS: Of course, we cut from the night with the rain to the desert and the sun. And as a director, it’s great.

SC: One thing that interested me is the motif of transportation that runs through the film. I was trying to relate the sixth one.

DS: It’s an inner trip. The girl is going fast. Really fast. I like your analysis.

SC: Thank you! The sixth was especially memorable.

DS: It’s a wonderful place for screenplays, weddings. A lot of feelings involved, and a lot of people consider it the culmination of something, and the beginning of other thing, and I think that there are a lot of…lies floating in the air because of the others. Because…you want to be your girlfriend, and with everybody, showing everybody, your eternally love, so spending all the money, and getting all the people, so nothing can go wrong, means more tension. And I’ve been to those weddings where everybody knows something, but the bride doesn’t, or the groom doesn’t, and that’s more than tension, that’s violence.

SC: How come?

DS: When he looks at her, she’s different, she’s changed, she’s an animal, she becomes brave, she’s wild, I’m sure that he’s in love with her again. Or for the first time. I saw it as a new beginning for the species and women, the institution falls, the society falls, If you go through wilderness, we can find ourselves, because we are wild.

SC: Very much like Thomas Hobbes

DS: I thought of that as well, yes. I think that they all, with the exception of the rich family, have liberated endings.

SC: Did you have more?

DS: I had a few more, but they weren’t as wild as these ones. I think that they belong to a different anthology, one in the future, probably. One is about a various intentioned robbery, and I have another that’s science fiction, and in the case of giants. I thought about putting that one in the end, but no no no, it didn’t fit the film.

SC: The next one, perhaps?

DS: You know, I shot two previous films, and two TV series, and the last one was in 2006, and after that, I started writing, I kept writing. I wrote this science-fiction thing, and then a Western, so I spent a lot of years just writing, and now I have a lot of feature films to make.

Wild Tales, distributed by Mongrel Media, opens in Canada March 6th.