“Carnage” Opens New York Film Festival
The opening night film for the 49th New York Film Festival, on Friday, September 30 was director Roman Polanski’s “Carnage.” The event took place at Alice Tully Hall. Cast members Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly were in attendance, as was playwright Yasmina Reza.
“Carnage” is the movie version of the hit Broadway play “God of Carnage,” by French playwright Reza. I was fortunate enough to catch one of the last performances of “God of Carnage” with its original Broadway cast still in tact: James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels, Marcia Gay Harden and Hope Davis.
While I was glad I saw the play performed by such a talented cast, I found myself not that enamored of the play itself. “God of Carnage” is the type of play Edward Albee was writing some 50 years, most famously “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” The story of “God of Carnage” falls into the theatre genre of the “living room wars.” The basic set up is familiar. A group of characters gets together and, before too long, the social niceties come down and we see what they are really like underneath. The play did not surprise me so I was a bit lukewarm about seeing the movie. Add to this the fact that actor John C. Reilly was in the film. Now, I like Reilly, but in his last few films (“Cyrus,” “Cedar Rapids”) he has played characters who are tiresome, loud, over the top and way too preciously “wacky” for my taste.
I am glad to report that, despite all of my pre-screening reservations, “Carnage” was actually quite good. In fact, “Carnage” is one of those rare instances where the story works better as a movie than it did as a play. Reilly, perhaps heeding my concerns about his recent performances, actually plays a restrained character, the one who, for most of the film, attempts to keep the other characters under control. As far as the story’s familiarity, yes it was there, especially since I had seen the play. Despite this, I was able to become more involved with, and appreciate, the characters more in the movie. While this may be overstating the obvious, I think this was due to the fact that, in a movie, you can simply get closer to the characters via closer shots, as opposed to seeing the whole production from one angle, from the rear mezzanine, as I did when I saw the play. While this may not be the case for every play that is turned into a movie, it is certainly true here.
Oddly enough though, “Carnage” is basically a photographed play. It is not opened up much. As in the play the story takes place, more or less, in one room. In the theatre we understand that there are certain physical constraints and so we are more likely to accept that everything takes place in one setting. In a film though we expect to see everything, or at least go outside, or to a different location, once in a while.
So, “Carnage” really should not work as a movie, and yet it does. Why? I think it is a combination of Polanski’s spirited direction, which keeps things moving at a brisk pace, plus the very fine cast which, besides Reilly, includes Christoph Waltz, Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster. Why analyze? If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it.
Posted on October 3, 2011, in New, New York Film Festival 2011 and tagged Alice Tully Hall, Carnage, Christof Waltz, Edward Albee, God of Carnage, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels, Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet, living room wars, Marcia Gay Harden, New York Film Festival 2011, Roman Polanski, Wose Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Yasmina Reza. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.