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London Film Festival: Carnage

London Confidential's LFF diary, live from the BFI

Written by . Published on October 19th 2011.

London Film Festival: Carnage

ALONG with showing a host of films, The London Film Festival is putting on a number of special events such a screen talks and master classes. Film fanatics or aspiring directors, screenwriters or cinematographers can get valuable insight from some of the leaders in the industry. Among those giving talks this year will be filmmaker, writer and artist Miranda July and the sometimes-controversial director Michael Winterbottom.

And so to the latest Roman Polanski offering, Carnage.

Carnage Poster Copy

As the movie opens, we see a group of kids converging in the distance. An altercation results, with one of the kids being hit by another with a stick. Next up we see two couples whose kids were involved discussing how to deal with the incident. On the one hand you have Penelope and Martin (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) whose son Ethan was injured. And then there’s Nancy and Alan (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz) parents of the offending Zachary. What starts off with civil pleasantries between the couples gradually unravels as pretences are shed and character assassinations begin. Alan is constantly on the phone talking about work and then Nancy proceeds to throw up all over Penelope’s prized art coffee table books. Soon after tensions build to boiling point as the couples argue with each other and also with their partners. There are some funny moments, but overall it felt pretty lightweight. Adapted from a Yasmina Reza play, it runs as an old skool comedy, the type of play that Shaw and Ibsen would have been critical of, where the bourgeoisie essentially laugh at their own social mores and hypocrisies. It also pandered to gender stereotypes, with the women presented as shouty and hysterical and the men resorting to a boys will be boys attitude. It also felt as though the New York-based dialogue was crying out for a Woody Allen-esque treatment (circa ’70s and ’80s). At 79 minutes long, it’s bearable fluff. The screening we watched the movie actually had people clapping at the end, so maybe proving that Shaw’s critique is still valid today.      

Carnage is showing on the 22 October at the London Film Festival

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