<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Roman Polanski. Starring Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C Reilly.
International director Roman Polanski wonderfully adapts a stage play set in an apartment with the help of some creative writing and cutting-edge performances.
Award-winning and controversial director Roman Polanski is back with a film adaptation of a stage play called Gods of Carnage by Yasmina Reza (who has also written the screenplay for this film) and has dropped the words ‘Gods of’ simply keeping the word that aptly describes what metaphorically happens here.
After school kid Zachary Cowan ‘armed’ with a stick assaults classmate Ethan Longstreet, thereby ‘disfiguring’ his face and knocking out two of his incisors, the respective parents meet at the Longstreet house to reconcile the matter. Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael (John C Reilly) Longstreet are the ‘victim’s’ parents but they veer away from an accusatory tone instead trying to be civil and be the ‘better people’. They simply want Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan (Christoph Waltz) Cowan to apologise and ask their son to do so as well, apart from straightening out what happened between the two. No blame, just healthy dialogue. In theory, that is.
Over some homemade apple and apricot cobbler cake, in between frequent cell phone calls by Alan, a workaholic lawyer who admits his son is a menace, the two couples try extremely hard to wear the masks of understanding and acceptance. Until of course fractures start forming in the conversation. And then, almost like water seeping through a crack in the ceiling, the tip-tapping of dirty sewage comes spurting forth and the angst, indignation and true colours of these ‘decent’ people is exposed.
All of this wicked banter takes place in the confines of the apartment and only on a few occasions do the Cowan’s make for the elevator only to return to the scene of battle for some coffee or to vomit in a vase of yellow Tulip bulbs and some art books cherished by the on-the-edge Penelope.
Already a brilliant play, Polanski has managed to capture so much emotion, so much putrid reality about relationships and give us so much seriously demented dialogue to laugh at. And the actors (all Academy Award Winners) make sure that this doesn’t turn into a comedic farce of slapstick proportions. Sure Jodie Foster’s character gets a bit too crazy by the end but that’s just because she snaps and most of us in real relationships know how violent that can end up.
At under 80 minutes, you will feel that this film hasn’t quite given you a satisfactory ending but you can chalk that upto it being adapted from a play. But the deftness and artful precision of character traits and relationship insights are depicted completely and marvellously. Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet are simply amazing.