Carnage” – Roman Polanski

I defer in almost all mat­ters to the New Yorker’s film crit­ic Antho­ny Lane. But I have to gen­tly dis­agree with his huffy dis­missal of Car­nage

Our con­trast­ing reac­tions to the film stem from our very dif­fer­ent expec­ta­tions of the the­atre. Lane is as polite as he is effort­less­ly eru­dite, and hav­ing been brought up to respect the the­atre, he clear­ly finds it dif­fi­cult, not with­stand­ing the end­less dis­ap­point­ments he must have expe­ri­enced there, to see it for what it is. It’s where writ­ers who aren’t quite good enough for tele­vi­sion or cin­e­ma go to hide. 

That sign that met Nicholas Ray when he arrived in New York from Wis­con­sin in the 1930s, which read “the the­atre is dead; let’s give it a decent bur­ial” stood, and stands as an appro­pri­ate headstone. 

So the play that this is based on, The God Of Car­nage by Yas­mi­na Reza is exact­ly what one should have expect­ed. As a piece of seri­ous writ­ing it will of course dis­ap­pear into the ether, and will only ever be of use to am dram socs and sec­ondary schools. But that’s hard­ly the point. It’s just a bit of fun, that’s all!

A pair of upward­ly-mobile, New York cou­ples spend a day togeth­er dis­cussing what’s to be done about the bois­ter­ous behav­iour of their respec­tive chil­dren. Inevitably, the veneer of respectabil­i­ty is soon scraped clean, and they are prompt­ly tear­ing strips off of one anoth­er. The film is every bit as pre­dictable as that makes it sound, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.

It’s the kind of thing Woody Allen used to make in order to raise the mon­ey for his more per­son­al films. In exchange for get­ting his more seri­ous come­dies fund­ed, he’d pro­duce some­thing light and frothy to keep the mon­ey men hap­py. So for every Man­hat­tan, The Pur­ple Rose Of Cairo and Crimes And Mis­de­meanours, there’d be a Han­nah And Her Sis­ters, a Bul­lets Over Broad­way and a Vicky Christi­na Barcelona. Devoid of sub­stance and made entire­ly of sug­ar, they’re an instant pick-me-up, but are per­fect­ly charm­ing nonethe­less. That’s what this is. 

I would though chal­lenge any­one to guess that it’s a Roman Polan­s­ki film if they hadn’t been told so before­hand. It’s not so much direct­ed as it is a filmed play. But con­sid­er­ing that Polan­s­ki hasn’t made any­thing of sub­stance since Tess in 1979, per­haps that’s not such a bad thing.

Any com­pe­tent direc­tor would be flat­tered when work­ing with actors of this cal­i­bre, all of whom deliv­er won­der­ful­ly. Though a bet­ter direc­tor would have insist­ed on impos­ing an end­ing, which the play plain­ly lacks, and which is exact­ly what Polan­s­ki him­self had done on his best film, Chi­na­town. I don’t know. Per­haps he has oth­er things on his mind these days.

Not with­stand­ing all of which, Car­nage should be seen for what it is. Quite sil­ly, and huge­ly enjoyable.