In cases of international intrigues and current controversies having to do with how fictional movies can effect real-life people and events around the globe, I have yet to watch The Interview, last year’s comedy about North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, which provoked terror threats against theaters and sensational accusations concerning the hacking of Sony.
However, yesterday I had the occasion to catch the award-winning black comedy from Argentina, Wild Tales, a darkly funny and shocking cinematic masterpiece containing six short-film vignettes, all having the common theme of ordinary human characters losing their minds and acting out unexpected, violent revenge upon each other. Emphasizing the fine line between civilization and barbarism, the film’s subtitle is “We can all lose control.”
Until this past weekend, I had never heard of this movie, Wild Tales, and until I saw the beginning of it, I had no clue about any controversy having to do with it.
I was completely unprepared for the opening scene, in which a passenger plane full of terrified people is deliberately crashed by a disturbed pilot after he locks all others out of the cockpit.
As I watched that initial subplot unfold, stunned by the grotesque coincidence, I couldn’t help but wonder (for just a moment) if the sequence was produced as a sick, cruel piece of art-imitating-death by filmmakers who’d somehow rushed to adapt into their screenplay the very recent suicide-murder crash of an Airbus jet full of innocent people in the French Alps by pathological sicko Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz.
Immediately, as I ‘did the math’ there in the theater, I knew that there was simply no way that the film could have been made and distributed after Lubitz’ crash, which took place only two weeks ago. Besides, I already knew from seeing the poster for the film in the theater lobby, that it had been nominated for the 2014 Oscar for Best Foreign Film — which told me it had already been released to some extent last year, well before the horrific Germanwings crash.
My next thought, of course, was whether Andreas Lubitz himself could have seen the film, and been inspired and/or triggered to do what he did by it.
I recalled the news reports of Lubitz’ girlfriend as having said, days after the horrific event, that he had told her he was “planning a heinous act that would be remembered forever,” and that he had supposedly said it about a year ago.
I decided that at the first opportunity after seeing Wild Tales, I’d research the timeline of the film’s widely-dispersed geographic release dates in order to try to surmise whether it is possible that Lubitz did see the movie in Europe.
I learned that (according to IMDb, Internet Movie Database, and Wikipedia) it was first shown in May of last year at the Cannes Film Festival in France, where it was nominated for the highest award, the Palme d’Or, and allegedly received a 10-minute standing ovation. Following that, it was released at prominent film festivals and in theaters in numerous countries around the world, to critical raves, prize nominations, and numerous awards, at various points over the weeks and months throughout 2014 and early 2015.
The key locations and dates which concerned me had to do with Germany, where Lubitz lived. The film was shown at the Hamburg Film Festival in late last September, and it was released in theaters throughout Germany on January 8th of this year. So it does seem very possible that Lubitz saw the film, especially considering how much attention and praise it was getting.
I also learned that in the time since Lubitz’ deliberate crash, various articles have been published discussing the same bizarre irony I’m exploring here, and people have taken to Twitter to remark on the very eerie similarity between the movie plot and Lubitz’ evil act.
The key parallels are exactly identical, but the screenplay’s intrigues differ in dramatic detail. In the film, the vignette begins as two passengers in-flight start out making small talk, but soon learn that they both know a man named Daniel Pasternak (one professionally, the other romantically), and that they both had to end things with him in very unpleasant circumstances.
A third passenger overhears their conversation, and chimes in with her own version of how she also happens to know Pasternak, and what a horrible boy he was as her student in elementary school. Quickly, the talk flows throughout the cabin, so that everyone on board suddenly realizes with surprise that they are all connected to Pasternak, and a steward announces with alarm that Pasternak is actually the chief steward of the aircraft. It suddenly becomes clear that he has commandeered the cockpit. With horror, it rapidly dawns on everyone that Pasternak has manipulated all of their individual travel itineraries so that they all wound up on this particular flight together, so that he can get his revenge on them collectively for the various wrongs and injuries they’ve done to him in his life, by seizing the controls and crashing the plane, killing them all.
Pasternak’s psychiatrist is on board too, of course, and is now pounding on the locked cockpit door, begging him to desist, and urgently telling him his parents are the ones to blame for his failures and his miserable life, not the passengers — that he should go after his awful parents instead.
The vignette ends with the plane barreling out of the sky and (Pasternak being several steps ahead of his psychiatrist) down toward the parents of Pasternak, as they are roused from a relaxing spell in lawn chairs outside their home by the onrushing jet noise, to stand and watch the jumbo aircraft descend catastrophically upon them.
The remaining five short tales in Wild Tales are each on their own enthralling works of art, and I definitely recommend the ensemble.
The film’s website now carries a disclaimer warning people about the potentially disturbing similarity between the opening sequence and the real-life deliberate Germanwings crash, and certain overseas cinema chains have issued identical warnings along with showings of Wild Tales. Some people are very upset that the film was released in the UK immediately after the Germanwings incident, and are demanding that it be cancelled or delayed.
By the end of its theatrical run in Argentina last September, Wild Tales became the most watched Argentine film of all time.
Be that as it may, other than my own rudimentary study of release dates and locations in Germany and Europe, I’ve not found any source to help really clarify whatever degree of likelihood exists that Andreas Lubitz attended a screening of Wild Tales, possibly inspiring or prompting him to carry out his diabolical plan. If anyone has further insight or information to that end, that is, the extent of the likelihood he did/it did, please do comment below.
Whether Lubitz saw the film or didn’t, I’m pretty spooked either way.