Thursday 20 October 2011

Review: Carnage

Year: 2011
Director: Roman Polanski
Screenplay: Roman Polanski, Yasmina Reza
Starring: Christoph Waltz, Kate Winslet, John C Reily, Jodie Foster

Synopsis is here:

The film is simple. Two couples meet to civilly discuss a violent incident involving their children. Both couples dislike each other as well as their own relationships but seem compelled by their hate to remain in the room they are in. There is nothing stopping these people to leave the house (one couple almost make it twice) and yet they remain to take chunks out of each other. Their conversation devolves into childish squabble at a swift pace, covering all sorts of uncomfortable areas and philosophies. Awkward glances transform into emotional sideswipes, forced politeness descend into racial slurs. Much like Bunel's "The Exterminating Angels" Polanski gives us a brisk 80 minutes to remind us that our so called civility that we love to utilise to lord above other people (or animals) is fragile veneer nearly always willing to crack when the right pressure is applied. The film is a claustrophobic black farce with four characters who make the bastards in Closer look like Care Bears. Polanski hasn't had this fun in ages.

This is the Polanski of old, back in the apartments (see Repulsion or The Tenant) while liberally sprinkling in that enclosing feeling that haunted the images of Knife in the Water. As Polanski turns the screws you can literally see the walls crumble around these characters, so relentlessly absorbed in their own little worlds that they come across as just as childish as the kids they came to talk about. The mud is slung thick and fast and the dialogue rolls off the fork tongues with devilish glee. Polanski remains uncomplicated visually as the actors do the heavy lifting.

Craftily casted, all four performances are finely tuned, with all managing to gain laugh out loud moments, be it the bash faux homeliness of John C Reily or the droll one liners of a carnivorous Christoph Waltz. Winslet as the cold, status fuelled wife of Waltz gets the best moment of physical comedy (I didn't expect such a moment from a Polanski film) while Jodie Foster lets loose as a passive aggressive bleeding heart liberal whose whiney protests for peace through culture brought some of the most amusement from myself.

My opinion of the film is simple. One of the two films I've seen this year at the London Film Festival (work commitments have slimmed my viewing) is a tightly wound, hystercal black comedy, from a director who even nearer 80 has not lost his sharpness when it comes to the middle class climbing up the walls of their closed in apartments. I'm not sure I've laughed harder at times this year.