Arts movie review

Battle, minus the blood

Carnage is a fascinating study of conflict — and parents

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Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet play concerned parents in Carnage.
courtesy of sony pictures classics



Directed by Roman Polanski

Starring Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly

Rated R

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As married couples grow older, they gradually adopt a mindset that pits them against the world and makes them believe that everyone is out to get them. Families grow into units that each have their own ideals and ways of dealing with different situations, and this makes conflict amongst families inevitable. In Roman Polanski’s new film Carnage, this truth is put on display for viewers to evaluate and ridicule.

Despite its seasoned cast (Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly), Carnage is refreshingly experimental. The 80-minute film takes place entirely in one setting, which leaves the story to speak for itself. Polanski runs the risk of boring the audience by having little movement in anything but the plot, but fortunately, the movie is anything but. From hilarious dialogue to situations that every couple can relate to, Carnage is a bold statement that you don’t need seizure-inducing action scenes or steamy romance scenes to entertain audiences.

Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly play a blue-collar couple whose son has been “disfigured,” their drastic exaggeration, by the son of a white-collar couple, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz. The rest of the film displays how these two couples deal with the repercussions of their children’s spat. Foster is unbelievable at portraying an overprotective, almost neurotic, mother and Reilly is a very convincing jolly, run-of-the-mill husband. Unfortunately, Waltz’s performance in Inglourious Basterds was too haunting for me to be able to accept him as just an arrogant executive, and his American accent needs more practice. Nonetheless, his mannerisms won me over and fit well with his character’s ego. Winslet was perfection.

Without the distraction of constant scene transitions, Polanski is able to experiment with the camera angles and depth of field. Interestingly, we can constantly see the facial expressions of one spouse as the other speaks, which tells us more about the characters than what they say aloud. In another segment, a strategically placed mirror in the front of the main room allows us to see a reflection of an outraged, blurry Reilly yelling in the background while Winslet’s reactions are shown in front of the mirror. These unique shots help us understand and empathize with each of the characters.

There are many ways to analyze this film. It introduces the problems that arise when two families of different backgrounds are forced to deal with an uncomfortable situation. It also tackles the issue of technology invading our lives, as Waltz’s character answers a phone call every few minutes. But the most profound idea is that we need to take ourselves less seriously, and the film teaches us this by doing something rare, making fun of its audience.