Poise Can Go Take A Hike

[Rating: 4]

Director: Roman Polanski

Cast: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly, Elvis Polanski, Eliot Berger, Joseph Rezwin

Synopsis: Carnage is a razor sharp, biting comedy centered on parental differences. After two boys duke it out on a playground,the parents of the “victim” invite the parents of the “bully” over to work out their issues. A polite discussion of childrearing soon escalates into verbal warfare, with all four parents revealing their true colors. None of them will escape the carnage.
Review: There are international filmmakers and then there are truly international filmmakers like Roman Polanski who can churn out something magically brutal out of a casual reconciliation amidst a lot of living-room poise. As a director Polanski is famous for his tightly framed scripts and his complex depictions of human vulnerability. His delving into the darkness that prevails within each one of us is perhaps due to the spate of losses that life compelled him to tide over. 

The man survived the Holocaust, lost his wife and unborn child to mass murderer Charles Manson and fled the U.S. on charges of raping a 13-year-old girl. The many horrors of his life eventually got linked with the cinema he created. Which is why a rawness of human distortions effortlessly surfaces in ‘Carnage’, Polanski’s Academy Award® nominated film that is widely being touted as ‘a new comedy of no manners’. 

Based on the play “God of Carnage” by Yasmina Reza, it is a bitingly boisterous comedy on parental difficulties. Taking potshots at American parenting and its many prejudices, a film that depicts how a polite discussion between two couples slowly becomes a battleground for verbal warfare. It so wonderfully delves into our innate need to defend ourselves in the guise of glorious theories of survival. It exposes the beast within each one of us, the one we layer with a thousand lies and still more pretensions. Sages in scriptures time and again accuse the mind of being the cause of all ills. Polanski’s ‘Carnage’ takes us into the wicked bylanes of our own mind, how it clings to the fragility of its pride, battling on the strength of past bitterness, simply refusing to resign. 

With a cast that enjoys  Academy Award® nominated lineage, the performances are simply priceless. Never again are we going to watch hysteria depicted in this classy a manner. Poise can go take a hike because the beast decides to paint the town a brutal red in this Polanski rich film. Meet the parents straight out of hell. 

Jodie Foster is a bundle of suppressed nerves as Penelope, a writer and endorser of liberalism, wife of Michael (Christoph Waltz), a down-to-earth hardware salesman, having arranged a meeting with the parents of a boy who has beaten up their child, knocking out two of his teeth. The bully’s visiting parents are Nancy, (Kate Winslet), an uppity broker who is pretentiously polite and poised and Alan (John C. Reilly) a brazenly distracted and unapologetic amoral lawyer addicted to his mobile phone. They are both well-heeled American parents priding themselves on being civilized enough to agree to sort things amicably. In due course of time, they bring out the worst in each other amidst espresso, homemade pie and scotch overdose, turning into drunken bullies, completely losing their sanity within confined space. And no they do not have claustrophobia as a reason to piggyback on. So its courtesies falling apart and turning into seriously funny mayhem.

Marriage assessments, battle of the sexes, character assassination, manly chauvinism and child rearing all come tumbling out into the open amongst heated debate and blame game. It’s a pure ode to petty human behavior. Our trademark way of hiding insecurity under the guise of self-righteousness. The way each of us can be so accurately inaccurate. Its cruelty that gets cathartic and perhaps that’s why highly funny for each one of us. The end is abrupt and great at getting us to realize the futility of a feud. But to see how things get tastefully ugly in the heat of the moment is what makes Carnage, an ‘exhilarating’ watch. 

The film can be easily included in the list of Polanski’s most notable works like ‘Knife in the Water’ (1962), ‘Repulsion’ (1965), ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968) and ‘Chinatown’ (1974). Watch it if you are a fan of all things claustrophobia. Watch it if you believe that we are united by just as much by our vices as our virtues. Watch it if you need lessons in bickering that doubles up to be as high on wit as an acclaimed stand-up gig. Watch it if you are a cinema-for-pure-cinema-sake person. But yes, quintessentially watch it for the cast and the creatively gifted director Polanski truly is. 

Verdict: Never again are we going to watch hysteria depicted in this classy a manner. Watch courtesies brilliantly falling apart and turning into seriously funny mayhem.

Pashmina Narang

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