#LFF 2016: Wild review


★★★☆☆
At its primeval heart, Nicolette Krebitz's Wild is the story of a lonely girl, Ania (Lilith Stangenberg), and a wolf whom she happens upon while making her daily walk to a dead-end job. A cautious, frightened distance initially held between beauty and beast will be slowly eroded by a magnetic, inexorable fascination, obsession even, which sees established boundaries between human and animal broken - in some instances literally. Beginning with the sombre greys and muted colours of a wintry urban setting, reflecting the monotonous drudgery of Ania's unfulfilled existence, Wild will beat darker and burn more vividly as a bestial union.

In what is little more than a copse of trees set in a large open space, further restricted by a railway line and housing blocks, a lone wolf appears. This first sighting stops Ania in her tracks, changes her irrevocably and encloses this wild animal in an urban landscape. How he came to be here is secondary to what role he will play in shaping Ania's person and future. Poorly treated by her boss, Boris (Georg Friedrich), and solely responsibility for her ailing grandfather thanks to an absent sister, Ania finds herself ensnared in a day to day grind. Is she prey to Boris? What strength will she take from her newfound savage companion? Hunter becomes the hunted and who holds the upper hand is unclear as a vicious co-dependence establishes itself.

Why does Ania go on a hunt to trap the wolf, putting herself in danger? Why capture and house this savage animal? Questions abound. Raging against the arbitrary, futile nature of modern existence and in stripping away the trappings of humane societal norms, Ania's behaviour regresses to a more primitive state. Barriers between domestic and remote spaces blur, and though fearful, she becomes feared and her troubling actions are hard to comprehend. Eating raw mincemeat surprises but the sexuality and bodily functions on display here will disturb and dismay. Cunnilingus, masturbation and defecation take us further down a twisted, animalistic path until a full physiological change latterly sees Ania down on all fours.

Whether confused, outraged or justifiably shell-shocked, no one can argue that Wild does not deserve its place in the Dare stream of this year's London Film Festival. The feint of heart or easily offended will shy away from this bold, daring and at times downright disturbing piece of cinema but its bravery - in both direction and performance - should be applauded. Stangenberg is a genuine force of nature, in every sense of the term, and Krebitz's direction demonstrates a commendable fearlessness of vision.

The BFI London Film Festival takes place from 5-16 October. Book your tickets at bfi.org.uk/lff.

Matthew Anderson | @behind_theseens

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