When I read the synopsis for Wild (not to be mistaken for the 2014 Reese Witherspoon survival drama) and discovered that it was about a girl who becomes obsessed with the notion of trapping and taming a wolf she encounters in a park, I wasn’t quite expecting it to be so full of artistic symbolism. I was expecting a somewhat entertaining and quirky, heartfelt German indy film about the kindling friendship between a woman and a wild animal, but instead I ended up watching something of an art film, with plenty of sexually charged content, symbolism and advocacy for liberation from the chains of modern civilized society.
Early on I thought the film was largely going to be about the feeling of alienation from society that ails today’s youth, but as it turns out, the themes in the film run a bit deeper than that. It’s not just that the main character, Ania, feels disconnected from the world, it’s that she is entirely void of purpose in life. She’s simply going through the motions, droning and being a mere a cog in the machine that we call modern life, always blending into the background and living a completely empty existence with no real identity or drive to call her own. It’s only after her encounter with the lone wolf in the park one morning that something inside her starts to change. She suddenly feels alive for the first time in her life and inexplicably develops a strong attraction to the wild animal. Be it love, primal fascination or something else entirely that drives her fixation, that is left entirely on for the viewer to decide. At first Ania seems content to only attempting to feed the wolf, but it’s not long before her obsession towards the animal grows stronger and she begins to formulate a plan to trap the wolf and bring it back to her apartment, where she aims to lock it up in a vacant room and start a life together with the beast.
This is where the film starts to get very symbolic and profoundly interesting. Of course you cannot just trap a wild animal inside a small room and expect it to be happy with its captivity, so after couple of days of circling the locked room that serves as its jail cell, the wolf begins to assault the nearest wall that stands between it and Ania, relentlessly hurdling its body against the wall in endless succession. When the entire wall eventually gives in and collapses, not only does it represent the inherent hunger for freedom that all living beings crave, the scene also works in parallel as a metaphor for the breaking down of the barrier between Ania and the wolf, as the two now start form an intimate, symbiotic connection with each other that launches Ania into a radical metamorphosis as a person. This relationship growing stronger is further elaborated in the form of the state of the apartment slowly falling into disarray alongside Ania’s own physical appearance. Although physically speaking you seem to be witnessing Ania’s entire life slowly starting to break apart, as shown through her neglect to the apartment, troubles at work and her own personal appearance deteriorating, spiritually Ania is actually beginning to blossom. Rather than being consumed, overwhelmed and withering away by the relationship with the beast, she’s instead ascending from being an awkward and isolated girl and re-emerging from her cocoon as a mature, beautiful woman and a fully formed sexual being.
Things start to get even more complex when the relationship between the beast and Ania begins to manifest signs of uncontrollable sexual arousal in Ania, leading to her experiencing wet dreams where she imagines the wolf performing cunnilingus on her. It’s not long before Ania’s urges even drive her to sneak out of her apartment at the middle of the night in her underwear and start grinding herself against the staircase handrail to find sexual gratification. Her sexual awakening also starts to blossom in the form physical attractiveness, as despite her unkempt appearance and wretched looking clothing she begins to look more and more sexy, prompting men to start brashly flirting with her and ultimately leading into her having heated sex with her boss at his office on the day that she shows up to announce she’s quitting her job. It’s as if she’s found her inner beauty through sexual liberation, shredding away her humanity and embracing her animal side.
At its core Wild is an oddly anarchistic movie. While it does not glorify Ania’s behavior, the story does seem to suggest that happiness is not found from civilization, but from the rejection of modern comforts, channeling your inner animal, stripping yourself bare from the shackles of social obligations and returning into the harsh bosom of the wilderness where you can be free and find true liberty. Perhaps that has some truth in it. Perhaps we all need to be a little more like wolves sometimes.