Title: Carnage

Director: Roman Polanski

The newest film from controversial filmmaker Roman Polanski is set to open this year’s New York Film Festival. And rightfully so, the New York Film Festival usually looks for high profile films to kick off the two week festival of Hollywood fare and Art House cinema. Last year, David Fincher’s “The Social Network” opened the festival to the delight of moviegoers and critics alike, also kicking off the fall Awards Season. This year, it’s Polanski’s turn. With “Carnage,” we see something we usually don’t see from this filmmaker, a comedy but moreover, a comedy of manners (of sorts).

“Carnage” starts harmlessly enough, cast and crew credits overlay a backdrop of a Brooklyn park with a group of young boys monkeying around on a local playground. Their fun and amusement turns physically confrontational when one boy, Zachary, strikes another boy’s face, Ethan, with a tree branch. The aftermath follows as each set of parents (Alan and Nancy played by Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and Penelope and Michael played Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) of the young boys meet to resolve their differences and remedy any physical damage. What starts off as a polite and cordial meeting, gradually turns into passive-agressive, undercutting words to comically drenched confrontations of each couples unions, personas and relationships.

As the tensions and drama escalate, the comedy and their honest increasing gets more apparent. It is interesting to see what starts out as pleasantries gets warped and mangled as each sets of parents become increasingly more protective of their children and relationships. Simply put, it’s an invasion of their own personal space, either found in the home or in themselves. Questions about the authenticity of their parenting and what they hope they will get out of this meeting get amped up as each minute or argument passes by. It’s surprising as convictions start to collapse and the couples start to break apart from said convictions and, more importantly, each other. Polanski nails the breaking point, delivering it in comedy and not in drama.

I find it interesting that this is a comedy, perhaps it’s easier to swallow the subject matter when an audience is laughing but “Carnage” isn’t a disposable film to gloss over. The notions of economics, cultural and class divisions are brought up. Alan (Christoph Waltz) is a high powered lawyer, interrupting conversations to answer his Blackberry and his wife, Nancy (Kate Winslet) is an investment banker. Michael (John C. Reilly) is a hardware salesman, albeit a business owner and his wife, Penelope (Jodie Foster) is a writer. Those constructs are reduced to nothing because they are all people trying to deal with the same situation, where money and class can’t help in either way.

“Carnage” can be a loose entry into Polanski’s “Apartment Trilogy,” alongside of “Repulsion,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Tenant”. I say the words loose because “Carnage” is not a horror film, or even anything heavy, it’s rather light in terms of tone and feeling, but it is completely set in a single location of Michael and Penelope’s apartment in Brooklyn, New York. Polanski uses this space rather well and adds to the clusterphobic nature of the film and it heightens the tension between the couples. This leads to the acting in “Carnage,” which is top-tier and well balanced. No actor is overshadowed or forgotten, each of the four leads play their characters well with a believability and vulnerability to it.

I do recommend Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” as a good way to kick off the 49th New York Film Festival. It’s one of the few comedic films showcased this year and would be a good break from the more headier films. It’s interesting to see how well-mannered people stop being polite as they slowly sink deeper into truth, honesty and sincerity and at the end of the day, conflict resolution has to take a break and has to start getting funny.

“Carnage” opens the 2011 New York Film Festival on September 30th.

Technical: B+

Acting: B+

Story: C+

Overall: B-

by @Rudie_Obias


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By Rudie Obias

Lives in Brooklyn, New York. He's a freelance writer interested in cinema, pop culture, sex lifestyle, science fiction, and web culture. His work can be found at Mental Floss, Movie Pilot, UPROXX, ScreenRant, Battleship Pretension and of course Shockya.com.

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