Ronan Polanski creates a stunning film based upon Yasmina Reza’s play “God of Carnage”. I loved the play, and even more the movie.
“Carnage” conjures mental malodorous images of massive massacres: “Rambo”, “Saving Private Ryan”, “Natural Born Killers”, “Kill Bill”, “Gladiator”; headless, limbless bodies nurturing vast wastelands, landscapes, meant for crop -rotation, relaxation, now just harbingers of death.
Here we have “carnage” of the spirit, mind, personality; a gradual, insidious, cancerous toxin stimulated by language; it is simultaneously beautiful and horrifying to experience. Two couples, four intelligent people foisted into an unnatural relationship because of an altercation between their grade school boys.
Actors in the prime of their halcyon careers give searing performances. Jodi Foster and John C. Reilly are “Penelope and Michael Longstreet” parents of the wronged and mangled child; Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz play the parents of the perpetrator, “armed attacker”, “Nancy and Alan Cowan”. What commences as a civil meeting at the home of the Longstreet’s, where all contribute to the “legal” document, recording the intricacies of the conflict; degenerates into a war of words; revealing deep discontent, fissures in relationships, broken facades, deceptiveness of appearances.
The genius of the production, that could be claustrophobic, is its inclusiveness of the neighborhood, seen through the windows of this urban domicile. We witness politeness morphing into antagonism; alcohol contributes to the shredding of civility; “liquid courage” at the water- boarding level, unleashes frustrations buried beneath years of acceptance, tolerance, denial. Mesmerizing, is the role- switching between characters; the weak gain fortitude, the intense crumble; never bereft of stinging, spiteful words. Oh, to listen to harangue spawned by the tongues of the “intelligencia”; mean-spirited, cruel, each barb hitting the vulnerable core of the opponent; all well-matched, giving as good as they get.
At times hilarious (a cell phone has a pivotal supporting role; as does the Longstreet’s hamster and Penelope’s cobbler); pulsating with lacerating wit; they are unforgettable, flawed but human, people we know or resemble.