It’s another black comedy. “Carnage” was adapted from the play “Le Dieu du Carnage” or “God of Carnage” by Yasmina Reza, a French playwright. After having a great success in France, the play was re-produced for Broadway in 2009, gaining Reza a Tony Award for Best Play. Then, Roman Polanski co-wrote and directed it for big screen under an international co-production of France, Germany, Spain, and Poland. It is shot in France, not USA, due to Polanski’s legal conviction in USA. It is also shot in real time without breaks.
“Carnage” basically is a simple film. Two parents hold a meeting to discuss about the fight their kids had. Michael Longstreet (played by John C. Reilly) and Penelope Longstreet (played by Jodie Foster) are the parents of the boy who was struck by a wooden stick, while Alan Cowan (played by Christoph Waltz) and Nancy Cowan (played by Kate Winslet) are the parents of the boy wielding the stick. Held in the Longstreet’s apartment, the meeting is started nicely and friendly. But, it then heated up as they started offensing each other rather than discussing about their kids.
“Carnage” is simple and short. It’s only 80 minutes long, but it is able to enlarge single problem to a nice up-and-down tension that, unintentionally, brings giggles. “Carnage” is set on a single location, which is the apartment, and there is nothing viewers can enjoy besides the dialogues and the acting. Of course, “Carnage” is very talky as the dialogues scope a vast area of everyday’s conversation. It could make “Carnage” boring, but it can also be seen as a simplicity. Just from the dialogue, we can see that “Carnage” is rich. While the meeting was held to discuss about the kids, they started to talk more about parenting, career, pride, lifestyle, sexual domination, international issues, and so on. There is a good development of dialogues that involves viewers’ emotion, and although it is not significant, it still takes our attention. It is actually supposed to make viewers laugh, but the comedy “Carnage” offers is not something that we can easily absorb. We have to focus to the debate they had to know the comical side of how childish they turn out to be. Maybe it’s a little bit brainy (and non-English-languaged viewers may find difficulty to absorb it), but I think the comedy “Carnage” offers is fresh. See, it’s kind of rare finding a non-slapstick comedy like this. Unless, after following the debate, we’ll just get either a nerve or yawns.
Besides, the upside of “Carnage” is the cast. Just like the movie poster, each of the four leading roles will show their own three different faces: nice face, serious face, and temper face. Reilly is a joky dad, Foster concerns a lot to her son, Waltz is always busy with his phone, and Winslet is a stressful mom. Ah, the four leading actors are just more than capable of playing these interesting characters. They seem found no significant obstacles in their acting. They are just adequate, and adequacy is what they are supposed to have. I mean, they are absolutely great actors but they could put down their shining quality so they didn’t seem abundant, which potentially destruct the simplicity of “Carnage”. It is just amazing seeing how they transform from fair-minded parents who greatly concern about their kids, to adults who hid their fragility in a form of childishness that seems so easy to be fueled. That’s a nice character development. They developed their own hidden problems very smoothly and it switches the main focus of parent-to-parent debate to person-to-person or men-to-women debate. No special cinematography, not even music (it seems that Alexander Desplat only composed music for the opening and ending credits, because most of the duration was filled with dialogues and debates) or special set decoration (but it is a nice-looking apartment, actually), but the real-time shot is something that makes “Carnage” looks detailed and elegantly crafted. Look, if you paid close attention to the sky from the window, it is clearly seen how time pass as they argue inside the apartment.
Finally, “Carnage” is a movie of dialogues and acting. It has somewhat intelligent dialogues, it is filled with great actors with interesting characters, and it has a nice character and story development. Nothing more. Perhaps “Carnage” seems plain and not interesting, but it just keeps itself from being too abundant. It is not as much entertaining as I assumed, ‘though, but it’s still a nice film you could enjoy in your spare time.
▲ Nice development of characters and story, great acting by all leading actors
▼ Not an easy-to-absorb comedy, may seems plain and boring
CARNAGE | COUNTRY France YEAR 2011 RATING Rated R for language RUNTIME 80 min GENRE Comedy, Drama CAST Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly, Elvis Polanski WRITER Yasmina Reza (play & screenplay), Roman Polanski (screenplay), Michael Katims (translation) DIRECTOR Roman Polanski IMDB RATING 7.2/10 METACRITIC 61/100 (Generally Favorable) ROTTEN TOMATOES 72% MORE INFO