Carnage Review


Roman Polanski’s adaptation of the stage play God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza is a scathing satire that deconstructs the distasteful nuances of the bourgeoisie. An awkward yet intelligent comedy, it caricatures middle-class America through its use of top performers at the head of their game.

Following a playground dispute between two 11 year-old boys that ends in the ‘disfigurement’ of one by a stick, the parents are brought together in an attempt to establish peace between both parties. What begins as a brief visit delivered with politeness through forced smiles, quickly descends into childlike verbal warfare and petty resentment.

Polanski has made no effort to redefine Reza’s play by altering settings or exploring the various avenues made possible through its transition to film. Instead, the focus remains on the integrity of the performances; a combination of sharp dialogue and impressive acting. Though perhaps the characters are a little too clichéd, this appears necessary for the conflicts of interests and cascading chaos that ensues when civility deteriorates.

A slow burner, the film’s opening tension is painful to watch, yet the pay off is definitely worth it. As inhibitions are lost – thanks predominately to the aid of a single malt – and integrity thrown out the window, the niggling criticisms that follow are hilarious. Christoph Waltze’s turn as a sardonic misogynist delivered in deadpan fashion is fantastic, whilst Jodie Foster’s part as the melodramatic victim constantly seeking recrimination is equally brilliant.

However, one cannot help but feel that Carnage is far better suited as a play. From its simple setting to archetypal characters, it retains an essence that seems to belong in the realm of theatre. Here, existentialist themes can be explored without being criticised for being overly pretentious, and the strong personalities appear more appropriate. The unrealistic circumstance in which the two couples find themselves at each other’s throats, though entertaining, doesn’t quite transfer to film.

By remaining faithful to the spatial and temporal reality of the theatre production, Polanski limits himself to a piece that is gratingly uncomfortable, but not always in a good way.

Taken from The Student, published Tue Feb 2nd 2012.

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