Wild tales (The Untamed movie review)

Amat Escalenta, a Mexican director known for his fascinations of brutalism and porno aesthetics, in “The Untamed” reaches for the frame of dark, sexual horror to tell the universal story of disintegration of family and moral relativism of normative, closed societies. First scene of the movie, which shows an asteroid suspended somewhere in outer space, initially seems to be an eccentric prelude that has not much in common with the main action, because the story is set in rather realistic decorations and focuses on ordinary people in their everyday struggles, fights, joys, and fears. Also the very first image in which the audience sees one of the characters doesn’t make too much sense when compared to other parts of the film. A dark, dodgy space in which a young girl experiences the pleasure of masturbation looks like taken from other story, because next chapters won’t come even close to the sexual underground and its secrets.

Nevertheless, the director slowly reveals that the action in “The Untamed” is divided into two parallel plans that represent consciousness (ego) and subconscious (alter ego) of the protagonist – Alejandra a mother of two whose husband has a romantic affair with her brother. The asteroid turns out to be a medium that brings to the earth a terrible monster that turns on mechanism of desire and repulsion at the same time. The strange, as lubricious as hideous creature that seems to build of many different, extremely long and lustful snakes gives to those who will be brave enough to entrust their bodies to him can experience incredible pleasure, but also risk their lives being taken away. Escalenta is making obvious references to “Possession” – a cult horror about a woman who leaves both: her husband and her lover to dedicate herself to a mysterious, supernatural creature, but – unfortunately – “The Untamed” compared with the masterpiece of Polish director Andrzej Żuławski falls poorly.

What’s surprising, it turns out to be the most interesting when the sexual monster – the embodiment of deadly delight – disappears from the screen and Escalenta focuses on portraying the reality of a small, conservative Mexican town.

The Untamed” is constructed as a metaphorical reflection on the Mexican society, which is based on hypocrisy, fascination with violence and patriarchal cult of strong, homophobic masculinity. The non-human creature that offers both – great pleasure and even greatest danger brings the protagonist on the road that doesn’t lead to self-destruction, but to emancipation. The metamorphosis of Alejandra, who initially realizes all of patriarchal schemes that the masculine order wants to cram the women in and have unsatisfying sex with her homosexual husband, in the arms of the monster discovers not only her own desires, but also the strength to become independent and strong. Her actions after the change seem to be pretty radical, but the director makes sure that the audience understands that “The Untamed” is composed of symbols. On this allegorical level Escalenta’s movie becomes a pretty interesting illustration of Lacan’s and Freud’s psychoanalysis that indicates a relationship between orgasm and fear on the one hand and of sexual pleasure and taboo on the other.

The biggest problem that appears in “The Untamed” is that staffage of genre cinema is used instrumentally and elements of horror and science fiction are not the integral part of the presented story. The movie realized the convection of realistic cinema and as such is both – good and astute. The director is known for critical images of Mexican culture and deconstruction of the popular in there macho worship and admiration for violence and in this movie he also remains critical and relentless. The thread of supernatural creature ruins the coherency of the movie and even the story of the protagonist’s emancipation doesn’t explain and justifies its presence, because the narration is led in a way that suggest that Alejandra, who experiences a lot of extreme situations that make her rebel against the patriarchal order, would reach independence without the meetings with a lubricious monster.