JAMIE MATHIESON observes drinking, chundering and intellectualism. A standard day in Cambridge.
Directed by Roman Polanski.
I really enjoyed this play. I enjoyed how none of the characters talked over each other at any point, how they all spoke in grammatically perfect sentences, how the only references were to things that were introduced in the opening thirty minutes, how Chekhov’s gun was in the centre of the set, and how a nice lady sold ice cream at the interval. But I am disappointed to find that Roman Polanski does not read The Tab and has not taken on board my constructive criticisms on the subject.
Carnage, based on a French play, is a film about four parents arguing in a room for 79 minutes after one couple’s son knocks out the other couple’s son’s teeth with a stick. The play’s original writer is one of the co-writers, with Polanski, of the film. It is evidently her baby – her French baby, and being a French baby it ironically mocks intellectualism while also providing a clear (and ironic) intellectual viewpoint which I would have found convincing if it didn’t come in the form of a grammatically perfect sentence from a character who we’re supposed to believe is drunk. French babies are often unconvincing, especially when they’re drunk.
The play had three acts. The first act didn’t really do it for me. It felt a bit contrived and predictable with stereotyped characters: Fred Flintstone; someone who would have occupied the Lady Mitchell Hall; ice-queen office bitch; an arrogant (and inexplicably German) misogynist. The second act began with a fantastically surprising bang and ended with a literal whimper as Jodie Foster sobbed so hysterically she probably needed rehydration tablets. In the third act Polanski lost confidence in his ability to make us believe in the actual tension of the clash of characters and so decided just to have everyone get drunk. This allowed comedy was allowed to happen, via an easier route than convincing characters and decent dialogue.
(l-r) Stereotype, Stereotype, Stereotype, Christoph Waltz.
This is a shame, because the first two acts, while contrived, did have convincing characters and decent dialogue. All four actors did their jobs, with Christoph Waltz as deliciously steely-edged as ever. I laughed out loud quite a lot of times, but less so than I do during an average 79 minutes in the pub with friends. But then, I do have exceptionally funny friends, who are usually drunk, always talk over each other and rarely speak in grammatically correct sentences.
A final note about this play: I am breaking the usual Tab format and not putting a link to the trailer, because my plus-one had seen the trailer and said it kinda spoiled the film by giving away the best jokes and letting off Chekhov’s gun. But then again, he was probably drunk, and can’t do grammar proper, so who knows?