CARNAGE is a stunning film - though from the outset it should be made clear that it is not a film for all audiences. For those who cringe at gore, those who are frustrated by nonlinear storyline, and those who feel uncomfortable with magical realism - beware. This is a two-hour plus journey that demands concentration and suspension of belief to glean all of the multilayered meanings it holds.
Stylishly opening with the elegant dressing and preparation of a handsome young bullfighter discussing his incipient time in the ring with his father, the film moves into a the bull ring in Spain and while the young bullfighter is gored, a young girl watches in horror on a television in France. Thus the sequence of coincidences begins. The dead bull is dragged from the ring, butchered, and his various parts (meat to restaurants, horns to a taxidermist, testicles, eyes, etc) are sent to unrelated places in Spain, Belgium and France. Along the way we meet the child who observed the goring on television and discover she is epileptic and draws pictures where dogs are larger than humans (because her's is!), an actress searching for her center, a therapy group bonding and yielding primal screams while nude in a pool, a taxidermist who lives with his mother (the wondrous Esther Gorintin of 'Since Otar Left') and his estranged anatomist brother married to a woman pregnant with quintuplets (neither brother speaks to their damaged father), and so many more. Each of these characters encounters one form or other of the dead bull as food, souvenirs, gifts, etc: each time the consequences of these coincidences add greatly to the story.
Meanwhile our gored bullfighter lies in coma in need of a liver transplant and it is one of the various women touched by the bull's demise in some way that dies in an accident and becomes the saving liver donor to the young bullfighter. The manner in which all of these myriad coincidental effects of the original bullfight mesh (altered relationships, rejoined parent/child schisms, deaths, altered lives) are sewn tightly together by the end of this apparent conundrum of a story.
The cast is uniformly exceptional. The camera work and pacing are mesmerizing, making the willing eye of the viewer see far more than previously thought possible. Writer/Director Delphine Gleize is truly a talent to closely observe. The audience for this artwork may not be large, but for those souls seeking unique films this one is Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, September 05