Wild – Review (*** 1/2)

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A movie with a premise this outside-the-box is always sure to invite one recurring question from potential audiences – exactly how far do they take it? Well, director Nicolette Krebitz essentially gets to have her cake and eat it too by building up her lurid inter-species log-line with a deliberate first half before letting loose with an outrageous firecracker of a second. Likely to be one of the London Film Festival’s most divisive movies, Wild is a winner both darkly funny and psychologically pointed for those with the stomach to follow it to the end.

Ania (Lilith Stangenberg) is an IT technician and glorified assistant at a soulless office where she’s viewed by most of her colleagues with utter indifference. On the way home one day, however, she spots a beautiful wolf on the city’s outskirts, and becomes utterly besotted with the beast.

A film that above all else is sure to crowbar open fervent debate on both sides, Wild is a slow-burn character study that teases patience and restraint early on. It seems poised for an artful riff on an attention-grabbing premise, as it digs in deep with Ania’s sexual repression and familial woes.

Then comes the rest. There’s a turning point, sure to delight and repulse viewers in near-equal measure, where Krebitz leaps from a more measured approach to a relentless parade of the sordid. Jaws will drop not only at how far it goes, but also how stingingly funny it gets, and how convincingly Krebitz depicts the central “relationship”. Visual effects and props are employed only sparingly (if in fact at all), and it goes without saying that the animal training is first rate, as evidenced by some of the shocking up-close-and-personal shots between woman and wolf.

The real centerpiece, though, is Stangenberg, whose intensely raw, frequently unflattering performance sells the central dynamic above all else. A film sure to be dissected for its potentially feminist and psycho-sexual readings as well as its generally provocative content, Wild is a divisive curio beyond much compare. Though the vacillating tone may be too erratic for some to endure, the ride’s well worth it for that knockout front-and-center performance.

*** 1/2

Wild premieres at the London Film Festival on October 6th

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