Carnage – Film Review

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Directed by Roman Polanski
Review by Thomas W. Campbell
Originally posted on December 16 on the National Board of Review web site.

Carnage is Roman Polanski’s film adaptation of the play God of Carnage, written by Yasmina Reza in 2006 and first produced in Germany, Paris and London with original cast members including Isabelle Huppert and Ralph Fiennes.

The play appeared on Broadway in 2009 with James Gandolfini, Hope Davis, Jeff Daniels, and Marcia Grey Harden all being nominated for Tony awards as the couples who meet up after their sons have a fight in a Brooklyn park. Those who have seen the English language productions will notice some interesting word play at work – Polanski insisted on creating a new translation of the original French language text before working with the author to adapt the play to the screen.

Carnage is a bit like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfwithout the jagged violence and Rabbit Hole without the debilitating pain of loss. It is a relentless film that pulls the viewer into a real time scene that recreates the experience of live theater in an exciting and cinematic way. Except for two shots, the opening and closing long-duration takes of kids playing in a New York Park park, the story plays out completely in real time. Beginning with a shot of the legal letter that the couples are composing in regards to the incident that brought them together and ending on a tableau of the exhausted couples, unable to respond to anyone or anything in the room, Carnage unleashes a powerful menage of acting, directing and cinematic techniques. With no “opening up” of the story by adding scenes or shifting locations for visual variety the film is lean (78 minutes), condensed, and pulsing with the non- stop energy.
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