Jun 22 2012 by Kaiya Marjoribanks, Stirling Observer Friday
MY MOTHER was a woman of wisdom.
Sometimes it takes you a long time to figure that out – especially when you don’t necessarily see yourself as being the beneficiary of those wise words.
She was my best friend and I could tell her anything – and while I might have had to brace myself for the initial onslaught, I knew she had my best interests at heart.
But make no mistake, she was no fool.
If I came in with some tale of woe about someone who had called me a name or taken a swipe at me, the first thing she would do was grill me to establish if I’d done something to provoke them. Moi?
While I always knew she would give me the tools to fight my own battles, figuratively speaking, she always said that nine times out of ten when parents start fighting the battle for their children the kids will be best buddies five minutes later, while the adults will be embroiled in lengthy verbal warfare until hell freezes over.
Never a truer word spoken.
We all think our little darlings can do no wrong. But sometimes we have to bear in mind that as adults our job is to venture into that grey area far from the black-and-white world which children tend to inhabit.
“Carnage” takes us into that dangerous territory when two sets of parents believe they are civilised and intelligent enough to survive together comfortably in the said grey area – when the reality is that they are only capable of inhabiting it momentarily for the sake of social expectation.
Carnage is a 2011 black comedy co-written and directed by Roman Polanski, based on the play “God of Carnage” by French playwright Yasmina Reza.
After an altercation between two boys in a playpark – culminating in one hitting the other with a stick and smashing two of his teeth – the parents of the “victim” invite the parents of the “bully” over to their Brooklyn apartment to work out their issues.
The parents of the boy wielding the stick, Alan and Nancy Cowan (Christophe Waltz and Kate Winslet), visit the home of Michael and Penelope Longstreet (John C Reilly and Jodie Foster), parents of the boy who was struck.
As their civility and inhibition washes away, aided by a bottle of whisky, the geniality vanishes.
The polite discussion of child rearing soon escalates into verbal warfare, with all four parents revealing their true colours.
With three Oscar winners and an Oscar nominee (Reilly), you can bet this film is something of an acting master class.
The four leads, with expert direction from Polanski, expertly manoeuvre their way through what is virtually a 90 minute stage play which happens to be on film.
Given that it happens in “real time” and in one setting, with every little detail captured, you feel like a fly on the wall, gleefully watching as these strung out parents begin to crumble before your eyes.
There is both discomfort and humour in seeing yourself in any one of the characters, and any parent who doesn’t feel as if they are looking in a mirror at points is either a saint or a liar.
Anyone who finds stageplays a little boring and self-indulgent might struggle with this movie, particularly if they dislike film versions.
One of the most surprising movies I ever watched, however, was “GlengarryGlenRoss”, another “play-put-on-film”. I was blown away by the standard of the acting, with a cast which included Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Jack Lemmon and Alec Baldwin all playing a bunch of estate agents – hard to believe, but it’s riveting stuff.
While Carnage might be a little too “real” for some, if you like great acting and an uncanny ability to unravel the human psyche – or if you are simply a parent/part-time referee – then you will truly appreciate this movie.
DVD SUPPLIED BY VIDEO DRIVE IN, GLASGOW ROAD AND BARNTON STREET, STIRLING.