“Carnage” Mini-Review

Carnage (2011)

Directed by Roman Polanski and based on a hit play ‘The God of Carnage’ by Yasmina Reza, ‘Carnage’ is a drama-comedy about two couples who gather in an apartment to discuss and settle their sons’ playground brawl. Although the cast is great in this film, and the film has its funny moments, ‘Carnage’ still suffers from some major flaws, and one of them is the inability to capture the precise humour and wit of the theatrical play.

In ‘Carnage‘, we have two couples, each having their own way of dealing with life events. They gather to discuss the best way to handle an injury inflicted by one couples’ son onto another. Alan Cowan (Christoph Waltz) is a cynical lawyer, whose way of dealing with any problem of misbehaviour is simply to accept it as inevitable given that the society is governed by mere “imperfect” humans. Alan is a ‘modern’ man obsessed with modern technology, and who is constantly on his cell-phone taking calls from his job. Alan’s wife, Nancy (Kate Winslet) is an investment broker, who, although appearing sympathetic, still somehow shares her husband’s cynicism deep inside. Michael Longstreet (John C. Reilly) is a plumbing salesman, whose usual way of dealing with issues is to trivialise them. His wife Penelope (Jodie Foster), a writer, can be described as a very representation of morality and order. She is an idealist, who is very traditional in her life-outlook. So, as the couples gather in the Longstreet’s living room and start a friendly and polite conversation about their sons’ incident, their true uncomplimentary personalities and immature ideas about life start to emerge.

As the film deals with the clashes of four different personalities, and two radically different lifestyles, the couples’ interaction is interesting to observe. During the course of one day, starting with a simple discussion on how best to reconcile their boys, Cowans and Longstreets progress on such topics as materialism, racism, idealism, cynicism, human nature, society, world peace and sufferings in Africa. In the midst of this ‘philosophical’ discussion, we see instances of hysteria, self-induced confessions pouring out and nervous breakdowns taking place.

Carnage’ is definitely to be enjoyed to its full extent in a theatre. ‘The God of Carnage’ is not a play which can be easily converted into a film. It is difficult to ‘sell’ some of the play’s funny and shocking moments on screen as the immediacy and intimacy are inevitably lost. When in a theatre, one can catch every word spoken with gluttonous interest. However, it is very difficult to do so when watching a film. Is is true that ‘Carnage’ stays true to the play, but maybe that is where it has gone astray. Although the film does try the ‘American Beauty’ (1999) route, and becomes a witty drama sitcom as a result, it only manages to do so at the cost of losing its unpredictability. The film also at times gets very tiresome, and there is sometimes a pressing feeling of something ‘essential’ missing from it. However, on a positive note, ‘Carnage’ is a nicely executed film by the director who is not a novice in shooting films in enclosed locations, ‘Repulsion’ (1965), ‘The Tenant’ (1976), and all actors involved give brilliant, convincing performances.

Although at times funny and entertaining, and at other times morbidly shocking, ‘Carnage’ still lacks that subtle humour and wit implicit in the original theatrical play. The only thing that arguably saves this film from sliding into a total disaster is an outstanding acting done by the outstanding cast. 6/10 

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