"Carnage" | A carnival of violent instincts

 28 Dec 2021 5:52 PM GMT  |  mpost

A carnival of violent instincts

French playwright, actress and novelist, Yasmina Reza, well known for her satirical plays on the contemporary middle-class crisis, clinched Tony award for her play, ‘The God of Carnage’ in 2009. In 2011, the veteran film director, Roman Polanski, celebrated for his stage to screen adaptation co-wrote the script with Yasmina to prepare a humorous verbose of 79 minutes, mocking at the middle-class banality and bourgeois pettiness. Polanski’s ‘Carnage’ undoes the savagery lurking behind the social masks of every human being, irrespective of class, culture and gender. Arming the characters with words from the beginning, the scriptwriters trap a quartet in a situation when they face an uphill task of overcoming their ego-driven societal confinement.

Transcreated in Brooklyn, the film begins with the meeting of Longstreets and Cowans to sort out a violent tussle that broke out between their sons. In the battle, Ethan Cowan lost two teeth and suffered nerve injury after being attacked by Jackery. The accused’s parents, cynical Alan and his wife Nancy and left-minded, liberal, victim’s parents Penelope and Michael do not take much time to finish their perfunctory exchanges to jump into a verbal disagreement. Cowans, the urban middle-class hosts, especially Michael try in vain to convince things, while Longstreets, representing an affluent class, make no effort to hide their disdain. Moreover, the course of the discussion gets abruptly disrupted each time Alan receives a call from his office trying to quell a pharmaceutical scandal. This adds fuel to increasing tension among the rest of the group. So, despite Michael’s effort to pacify them by offering food and drinks, the discussion turns into a claustrophobic hullabaloo. The conflict soon spirals out of control as the couple fails to settle whether the boys should reconcile or be remonstrated with or be applauded. And finally, to everyone’s awe, the parents, crossing all limits of human sanctity get involved in a cathartic drunken broil, where no one spares anyone.

The commotion may appear a little less artistic and awkwardly comical in Roman’s standard of filmmaking, but this production leaves a big imprint of the director’s early theatrical milieu. Jodie Foster’s Penelope an artistic liberal is a revelation in the film. Antagonised by Alan (played to the perfection by Christoph Waltz) and his relentless smirking, she performs as heart on her sleeve when she expresses, ‘culture is so powerful force of peace…’. John Reilly’s initial tolerance followed by a gothic outburst draws even more attention than Waltz’s sneering snobbishness. Kate Winslet rather looks flat as Nancy in the drawing-room. Cinematographer, Pawel Edelman keeps his camera so tightly focussed on individuals, while watching the film, you will feel like placed somewhere inside the same box.

No wonder, Yasmina’s play is so universal, it is relevant to mention here, ‘Shohan’, a Bengali theatre group once adapted ‘Le Dieu du carnage’ under the guidance of theatre maestro, Bratya Basu in Kolkata in 2016. The play, named ‘Esho Katha Boli’ (Let’s talk) not only won a great appreciation from theatre critics of Bengal but drew instant attention across the country.mpost

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