Film review: Carnage

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Jen Perry is presently completing her Honours year in German at the University of Western Australia, and was on the student-editing committee for Trove from 2010 to 2011.

The opinions expressed in Trove are those of individual contributors and not those of the editoral committee or the steering committee (as editorial advisers) or UWA.

Still from the film 'Carnage'

Review by Jen Perry

Edited by Rachael Hains-Wesson and Carol Ryles

Film: Carnage
Director: Roman Polanski
Running time: 80 minutes
Year of release: 2011
Language: English

While the word carnage connotes images of blood, guts and massacres, Roman Polanski’s film Carnage explores the disintegration of civil communication between two couples. Based on the French play, God of Carnage, by Yasmina Reza, a precipitated meeting between two dissimilar couples occurs, which is associated with their ten year-old sons fighting at a playground. However, the action ultimately takes place in the Longstreet’s lounge room (Jodie Foster and John C Reilly).

The most glaring differences between the couples was expressed by their individual and varied parenting styles. During the film’s first act, as the Cowans (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz) awkwardly try and escape the Longstreet’s lounge room, casual discussions of punishment and morality blossoms into serious altercations.

These arguments are aided with comedic punctuations such as projectile vomit, incessant calls from a senile mother and a discussion about an abandoned hamster to name a few. While these moments are funny, they do little to further the plot of the film, especially concerning the theme that civility is relative and relationships are a constant work-in-progress.

As I watched the film, I looked around the cinema and noticed that the majority of the audience members were over forty and were enjoying the antics. However, I suspect this had more to do with the feeling of having “been there done that” than any of the slapstick humour that the film focused on.

Nevertheless, Carnage connected with the audience and especially with those who understood such “secret marriage business”. For me, however, Carnage's depiction of various unsettling and profound issues that arose in the marriages had an alienating affect, and therefore I found the film tough to review.

For one, while all the ingredients for a fantastic film were present, such as an established play with a great cast, something was still missing. Second, Carnage left me without an overall cathartic moment and I was essentially left scratching my head, thinking “so what?”

This film is for viewers who have first-hand experience associated with long term relationships with children, and for movie-goers who desire a laugh about marriage as a particular social and cultural phenomenon.

Carnage begins March 1st at Cinema Paradiso, Perth, Western Australia.