by Daniel Engelke
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Roman Polanski’s ‘Carnage’ is a difficult film to digest. From what I can tell of the director’s films is a focus on the ‘unwanted guest’. In ‘Carnage’ the invited (but very unwanted) guests are Nancy and Alan Covan. The Covan’s arrive at the house of Penelope and Michael Longstreet, after their children have had an altercation at school.
Rather than get lawyers involved, the two parents attempt to reconsile the matter in a civilized manner. When neither party can decide which child is actually at fault, the parental blame game begins.
Like a yarn unraveling, so is the patience of each couple. In an effort to stay civil, the unwanted Covan’s feel compelled to stay at the Longstreets to solve their predicterment.
The Longstreets, played by John C. Reily and Jodie Foster, live disproportionately in each other’s shadow. Reily, though he is the breadwinner, is ridiculed by his wife (and later the Covan’s for his job as a plumbing salesman during their meeting. Foster, an amateur writer and chef, faces that same ridicule for her awful cobbler and upcoming book about African tribes.
Meanwhile, the Covan’s also display their destructive marriage at the meeting. Constantly on his phone for business, Alan Covan, played by Christoph Waltz, leaves the resolving with the Longstreet’s to his wife. Rather than confront her husband, Nancy Covan, played by Kate Winslet, scoffers at her husband to the couple whenever she can.
Taken from Yasmine Rezo’s stageplay (who also workined on the script with Polanski), ‘Carnage’ works on theatrical character arcs. Polanski’s powder keg of characters inevitably explodes in the climax of ‘Carnage’. Like the character’s stuck in the Longstreet’s tiny apartment, we are also trapped in the theater.
Surprisingly, the only bad choice to me was the casting of Christoph Waltz. Obviously a wonderful actor, Polanski’s direction of the German actor seems stifled and lost in translation.
On the other hand, Reily and Winslet shine in ‘Carnage’. Adding depth to his usual comic character, Reily shows he knows when to get serious. Kate Winslet’s embittered dialogue seems to guide us through the harshest parts of ‘Carnage’ with deadly persion. Yet another reason why she is so enjoyable.
‘Carnage’ is a very entertaining film with a heavy message. I highly suggest ‘Carnage’ for anyone who enjoys reveling in cringe worthy moments and has a strong stomach.
Daniel Engelke works as a freelance writer and director in New York City. He graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in Film. He specializes in Italian Neo-Realism and the French & German New Wave.
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