One day in a New York park, two 11-year-old boys get into a fight. Ethan is hit by Zachary and Ethan’s tooth is knocked out. Later, Zachary’s parents, Alan and Nancy Cowen (played by Christoph Walz and Kate Winslet) visit Ethan’s parents, Penelope and Michael Longstreet (by Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) to address the issue and apologise on Zachary’s behalf. The meeting is cordially polite and all the expected things are said, but before Alan and Nancy leave the Longstreet’s home, the discussion takes several turns as, due to circumstances, the real characters of each of the four participants is revealed.
This is Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s play “God of Carnage” (French, originally “Le Dieu du carnage”), which presents the interactions of these four individuals within the confines of the Longstreet’s home. It cleverly explores and reveals each person’s views and expectations through a series of insignificant things that happen during the Cowen’s visit. At its heart is the incident between their sons, but issues about their own relationships and life expectations emerge through their conversations, which take the audience through a full range of emotions. Apart from the dialogue between the four, the telephone provides a key distraction and is the source of several contributing conversations – it’s also a welcome relief from the four. It is a little hard going for the audience – I found myself wishing they could just bring the discussion to a conclusion, but inevitably another situation arises to keep them together for a little longer. It is also one of those movies where I am not sure if it is meant to be a comedy or not. It is obviously far more effective as a play, however the performances of each character are marvellous – it’s one of those movies where it looks so much like real life that it seems mundane, but you know the actors have each done a marvellous job. I think it would have been a challenge and a pleasure for them to be involved.
Made in 2011. Directed by Roman Polanski