January 17, 2012

Roman Polanski's "Carnage" And Claustrophobia

I confess that I saw Roman Polanski’s Carnage on a whim…and slightly buzzed on pinot noir. Polanski once again treads in a familiar territory as this film is a study in claustrophobia, and the pinot buzz, if anything, heightened the sense of entrapment.

                                                         © 2012 Sony Pictures

In the opening scene, the viewer witnesses a minor playground scuffle where a boy hits another with a stick. The next scene – which comprises the rest of the movie – is the consequence of that one action wherein the boys’ parents meet and are trapped in the tight confines of an apartment to discuss how to resolve what some of them see as a monumentally significant incident. What ensues is biting commentary of the self-righteousness and self-adulation of over-involved – yet, realistically, absentee – parents in an era when playground play and scuffles have been replaced by supervised play dates and adult over-supervision.

When the two sets of parents, played by Christopher Waltz and Kate Winslet, and John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster, first meet, it’s all Upper East Side urbanity and liberal politeness. Yet after more than a few rounds of whiskey and fruit cobbler of questionable quality, all their affected sophistication and civility descends into a drunken display of hypocrisy, phoniness, pettiness, repressed anger, and cracks in the pavement of relationships the size of potholes. In effect, what transpires is the comedic equivalent of what happens weekly on Jersey Shore or Real World (Season 52?). To play along and not blow the sophisticated self-image of the two couples, let’s just say that similar territory was covered in the 1960s classic Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Based on Yasmina Reza’s play, Carnage the film remains a one-scene play. However, without the air, space, and din of a live audience, Polanski’s adaptation forces the viewer to feel like a trapped fly on the wall of an apartment where over-reaction and “carnage” transpires.

If you are the busy parent of playground-age children today, this film may be a bit too close to home to fully appreciate. However, if you’re friends with such parents – or if you’re thankfully a self-aware parent – Carnage is a darkly hilarious movie with several unsettlingly all-too-familiar moments.

The subtle punchline/astute concluding observation occurs during the ending credits…

No comments: