I had more in common with those people than I want to admit
I’m more into verbal humor than physical. Surely I can laugh at puking when it reaches an absurd level. Monty Python’s restaurant scene in The Meaning of Life remains one of my favorites. But on the whole I fail to see the fun in pee, poo or penis jokes. On the other hand, give me a quick and witty conversation, dialogues dripping with self loathing irony or poisonous sarcasm and you’ve got me.
Roman Polanski’s Carnage actually has both of it, which surprised me quite a bit. Who thought of Polanski as a comedy maker? I may have missed out something, but I certainly didn’t.
The wordsmith humor in this film consists of the battle between two couples, the parents to two boys who have been into a fight, one beating the other. The entire film is about how they seemingly try to settle the issue, while they in reality get into a rapidly escalating verbal fight in various constellations, not only between the two families, but also within them. Alliances come and go throughout the film.
But it’s not the fighting that I’m going to take with me from this film. It’s the puking. There was something immensely satisfying about watching Kate Winslet, as this annoying upper class woman, all of a sudden empty her stomach over a bunch of precious art books belonging to the “enemy” couple. It was as if it released a lot of my own reactions to all the unconstructive, passive-aggressive blame-gaming bullshit that had been going on in the conversations for a while. Sometimes words aren’t enough. Sometimes you just need to throw up. It made me laugh out loud.
A small film
This is by no means a great film. In fact it’s very small, in several ways. The cast is small, consisting of four actors with a few telephone voices and statists giving a picture of how the fight went. The location is small; it all takes place within the walls of an apartment and in the few meters between the entrance door and the elevator. And the format is very small with a running time of 80 minutes, which probably includes the text credits.
I would actually say that the smallness of the film is one the best things about it Sometimes you don’t have time to spend your entire night watching a 2,5 hour long mega sized movie. Carnage is a movie for those occasions. And I’ve never had anything against movies that only take place in one room, movies that are based on a play and don’t make a secret of it. On the contrary, I tend to like them.
Perhaps it was expected that I got to think of another movie about two couples in a fight: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? In comparison Carnage comes out as pale, lightweight and forgettable. There are no ideas that stick with me; the performances are fine but not unforgettable like the Taylor/Burton combo. Frankly I see no reason to revisit this film anytime soon.
But you know what? I’m fine with that. Not all movies need to be future classics to be worth our time and money. Sometimes it’s enough to get a few good laughs as you watch someone mercilessly mocking people you have more in common with than you want to admit.
Carnage was to me like a piece of dark chocolate with added sea salt: it’s not a full meal, but it’s a piece of snack that is interesting enough to be enjoyable even in small quantities.
Carnage (Roman Polanski, 2011) My rating: 4/5