Director: Roman Polanski
Screenwriters: Roman Polanski and Yasmina Reza based on her play God of Carnage - translated by Michael Katims
John C. Reilly
Runtime: 80 mins.
Australian release date: 1 March 2012
Carnage, directed by Roman Polanski and based on Yasmina Reza’s play God of Carnage, is a biting satire that takes no prisoners. In a Brooklyn apartment, two couples meet to discuss how to deal with their sons who were involved in a fight in a local playground. What was hoped to be a cordial meeting turns into the afternoon from hell.
Mixing themes reminiscent of Luis Bunuel’s film Exterminating Angel (1962) and Edward Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), Polanski takes us on an 80 minute journey where we almost feel as the parents do, psychologically, but not physically, trapped in the same room.
With stunning performances by both couples, it is difficult to take sides with either as the drama unfolds and their carefully maintained veneers of middle-class respectability start to peel away. A rather brittle Nancy Cowan (Kate Winslet) and her mobile phone-obsessed husband, Alan (Christoph Walz), are invited to smooth over the issue at their son’s ‘victim’s’ home and meet the parents, a rather prim, but bottled up Penelope Longstreet (Jodie Foster) and her garrulous, working-class husband, Michael (John C. Reilly).
All four actors have fine careers to their credit, but it is this film which really shows how damn good they really are. As the couples turn against each other and wives turn against their husbands and vice versa, it starts to get incredibly bitchy and at times hilarious. At no time do you feel that you are watching a play due to Polanski’s sparkling direction and Pawel Edelman’s excellent cinematography (Edelman worked with Polanski on The Pianist in 2002 and The Ghost Writer in 2010).
Carnage is a fine script. Its somewhat abrupt ending makes an even greater mockery of the parents’ anxiety and comes thoroughly recommended, especially if you are looking for a good drama which is soaked in acerbic wit.