Roman Polanski’s latest film ‘Carnage’ is a tense black comedy, wittily adapted from Yazmina Reza’s stage-play ‘God of Carnage’.
The tells the story of two middle class couples who meet to discuss an altercation between their children. Jodie Foster and John C Reilly play Penelope and Michael, a relaxed couple who invite the more business-like Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan (Christoph Waltz) over to discuss the latters child attacking their own. The situation rapidly descends into an uncomfortable stand-off , both refusing to blame their child, yet unable to leave until someone concedes responsibility. This then escalates, making for dark, tense and hilarious viewing, as the viewer struggles to find a single likeable character, both couples are exposed as selfish and bitter creatures.
The film is shot almost exclusively in the flat, save for a shot of a New York park that somewhat detaches the viewer, when you consider that Polanski was not the one able to film it.
The plaudits will go to Waltz for his portrayal of the uncaring and misogynist lawyer, but the real strength of the movie comes from its women. While Waltz’s character’s detachment leads to him being given all the best lines, and John C Reilly plays the normal insensitive and amusing buffoon, it’s Winslet and Foster who really shine, developing from calm quiet spouses, to protective mothers, to deeply unhappy wives , eventually representing the dominant spouses, all culminating in a hilarious scene involving a Blackberry.
The film is funny, genuinely intelligent, and while lacking any really original characters or plot , the humour of the film, tight scripting and quality of the small cast allows it to transcend its simplicity, making for amusing and engaging viewing. The tense nature of the situation leads the viewer to implore the characters to resolve the issue, yet retain hope for more problems merely so we can hear more thoughts from Alan, a character who though infinitely more horrible then the rest of them, appeals to the viewer purely for his glorious lack of heart.
Waltz‘s performance is reminiscent of his character in Inglourious Basterds, though obviously not quite on the same scale. It’s also nice to see Winslet show off her comedic side, free from the limitations of her usual Oscar fodder, her performance pitch perfect, overtly theatrical, but still believable in this farcical comedy.
In a glorious career only tarnished by his antics outside of Cinema (a point impossible to ignore), this rather short effort certainly represents a change of pace for Polanski, and the limited directing needed allows the characters to breathe in one of the year’s best comedies. Although the tension somewhat fades out towards the end, the 79 minute running time flies by, with constant laugh out loud moments, and a tense yet engaging feel throughout.
Carnage (2011), directed by Roman Polanski, is distributed in the UK by StudioCanal, Certificate 15.