Thursday, 6 August 2015

Carnage

Carnage; black comedy, France/ Germany/ Poland/ Spain, 2011; D: Roman Polanski, S: Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz

New York. After an argument, two boys clash: Zachary hits Ethan and breaks his two teeth. Their respective parents thus meet in an apartment to settle the matter. Zachary's parents are of mixed views: Nancy feels remorse, but Alan is trying to whitewash Zachary's action by claiming that violence is constant in human nature. Ethan's parents differ as well: while Penelope is strongly trying to advocate that all violence is wrong and demands punishment for Zachary, Michael tries to remain neutral and appease Alan and Nancy. In the end, they end up in an argument as well, until they agree to disagree.

The movie adaptation of the play "God of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza, "Carnage" is a half-jewel of a film: it starts in a fantastic fashion, but somewhere half way loses steam and ends in a rather abrupt, anti-climatic finale that is not entirely satisfying. The storyline in which parents of two kids who had a fight themselves start to childishly argue, because each couple seems to whitewash their kids wrongdoings, mirrors some eternal flaws when it comes to human interests which disrupt objectivity, and is thus congruent with Roman Polanski dark and nihilistic worldview about human nature. The film/play has a masterful sense for comic dialogues, some of which are so inspired, sharp and brilliant they bring down the house (Michael trying to de-escalate the situation by mentioning how he gave his wife the nickname "Darjeeling" instead of "Darling"; Penelope subtly trying to insert her worldview in each conversation with Nancy, such as when they talk about art and Penelope says: "We really believe that culture can be such a powerful force for peace!"; the argument between Michael and Alan after the latter's phone conversation: "Pharmaceutical companies are the worst. Just profit, profit, profit..." - "Nobody said you should listen to my conversation." - "Nobody said you should have it under my nose." - "I'm forced to have it here."). The four performances are also all fantastic. However, it seems the 'kammerspiel' setting inside only one location makes the film slightly monotone, which is sensed in the second, weaker half that has far less good moments, and the subtle mood is disrupted by the unnecessary explicit, tasteless scene of Nancy throwing up on the table. The confrontation, which gives a typical clash of revisionism and apologetics reminiscent of the Balkan mentality, seems to be building up for a physical fight between the two couples, but it never comes, and thus the ending is much tamer and benign compared to the first half.

Grade;++

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