Carnage (2002)

 “It’s a moment when all doubts vanish.”

The film Carnage blends together the lives of various characters who are all connected by the body parts of a dead bull. The bull is killed in a bullfight, and then the various bits are sold and dispersed across several countries.

The various characters include:
-Carlotta (Chiara Mastroianni), an insecure young actress
-A bizarre old taxidermist and her ungroomed son who live in a squalid trailer
-An obnoxious scientist and his pregnant wife
-A married couple and their only child, Winnie (Raphaelle Molinier)
-Alicia (Angela Molina), a mother with a mysterious past & her schoolteacher daughter
-A young bullfighter

The film’s themes are life and death. Several births take place, and several deaths occur throughout the film–the emphasis is on the cycle of life and rejuvenation. Characters who are intimately connected seem to experience difficulty understanding one another. Winnie’s teacher, Jeanne, for example, can’t understand why Winnie keeps drawing her dog bigger than humans, and she insists that Winnie needs to be more accurate. Winnie, a silent, observant child who suffers from epilepsy, doesn’t bother to explain to her teacher that her pet dog, a Great Dane, is indeed bigger than she is. Similarly Jeanne and her mother, Alicia never really discuss the very serious problems in their relationship–although Jeanne lobs several snide barbs at her mother whenever there’s an opening. The actress, Carlotta, seems to be experiencing problems connecting even with herself, and so she’s attending classes to help change that. Some of the other characters–the taxidermist and her son, for example–are just too bizarre and too unpleasant to contemplate.

I have never had the best luck with films in which a physical object is tracked as it changes hands (Red Violin, for example). I tend to find these films somewhat pieced together, and Carnage is exactly that–there are moments in the film which are excellent, but the film seems to become more fragmented as it progresses. Scenes that seem totally unconnected to everything else (the burn victims’ choir, for example) don’t exactly add to the cohesion. The film includes footage of bullfighting, scenes in an abattoir and scenes involving taxidermy. The soundtrack is excellent, and the DVD also includes 2 short films from the same director, “Dirtie Basteroz” and “A Castle in Spain”. Overall, this is an artful film–perhaps too artful. While I can’t say that I enjoyed it very much, I won’t automatically dismiss other work from the director, Delphine Glieze. In French, Spanish, Italian and Polish with English subtitles.

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