Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” is his take of Yazmina Riza’s play, “God of Carnage” which I saw a few years ago on Broadway with James Galdolfini, Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis and Marcia Gay Harden. The action centers around the get together of two couples who meet to sort out a small incident between their sons. It’s all very polite and civilized. Zach Cowan (son of Alan – Christopher Waltz- and Nancy – Kate Winslet) has hit Ethan Longstreet (son of Michael – John C Reilly – and Penelope – Jodie Foster) with a stick, breaking a tooth.
Soon, sensible, civilized manners collapse into fighting, screaming and near hysteria.
The movie starts with a nice discussion of wrong and right. It’s a seemingly open and shut discussion. But it doesn’t take long for the glue of polite behavior to become unstuck as the simple allocation of blame becomes muddled. The truths that emerge (of the fight between the boys, one of whom is played by Polanski’s son, and their adult avatars) reveal nastier realities of misogny, racism, family collapse and social callousness.
It’s as though polite behavior is just a very fragile veneer that threatenes to disintegrate at any moment.
Christopher Waltz brings his own brand of patrician nastiness, that stands out amidst this master class of acting.
Polanski keeps the action tight, almost claustrophobic. He shoots from angles that make the elegant living room feel as constricted as the conventions of behavior the couples feel they must escape; it brings the audience in very close to the action. You’re almost there, in touching distance of the players.
But, lest you feel this is just an intense melodrama, let me reassure you, much of it is just hysterically funny. We the audience are voyeurs of an comedic disintegration that’s often wildly facrical.
Go see it