More of a Minor Car Crash

This is my review of Carnage [DVD].

Most reports of the stage play "God of Carnage" find it hilarious, I enjoyed the playwright Yasmina Reza's comedy, "Art" and admire Polanski's skills as a director. So, why did I approach the film "Carnage" with such reservations? Mainly because the critics have been very cool about it, plus I personally found the script of the play very disjointed, with laboured humour – a bit boring in places, to be honest.

In fact, the film proved better than I expected – but not that great.

This short film is true to the original play "God of Carnage" as regards both the dialogue and the "unities" of time, place and action, enacting the whole drama in a Brooklyn flat, transposed from the original setting in Paris.

One boy has struck another, permanently damaging his teeth. The parents of the victim, Penelope and Michael, invite Alan and Nancy, parents of the aggressor, round to their flat to discuss how to handle the affair. At first on their best behaviour, the foursome gradually lapse into childish squabbling and the boys are almost forgotten as the cracks in their respective marriages become apparent. This is quite a promising basis for a play, and there are some funny lines and amusing incidents, such as the lawyer Alan's preoccupation with his mobile phone, on which he conducts sensitive business conversations to the growing irritation of everyone else.

However, I was never moved, and always aware of watching the actors. It may not have helped that this is very much a filming of a stage play, yet one can rarely see all the characters interacting at the same time as one does on the stage, since the camera inevitably tends to focus on one or two faces at a time.

It also bothered me that Penelope, the highly strung writer of books on Africa who cares so deeply about moral issues, is so ill-matched with the superficially easy-going but essentially coarse Michael, who earns a living flogging saucepans and lavatory flushes.

Strongest reservation of all: the serious point of the play, that even in the most civilised people barbarism is only skin-deep, does not seem very well illustrated by this particular drama.

The point I liked the most – not in the original play – is the glimpse at the very end of the two boys apparently chatting together amicably in the park, unaware of their parents' bickering.

⭐⭐⭐ 3 Stars

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