Roman Polanski’s Carnage is a story of what happens when the parents of two eleven year old boys try to act civilized after one of the boys, Zachary, defends himself with a stick and knocks two of Ethan’s teeth out. Before it was a movie, it was a French Tony Award-winning stage play by Yasmina Reza, God of Carnage.
Penelope, Ethan’s mother, wants Zachary’s parents to make him apologize for “disfiguring” her child. Much of the humor comes from exaggerated words such as this. To complicate things, Zachary was trying to defend himself from a gang of playmates, not just Ethan. Penelope has invited Zachary’s parents over to allegedly discuss the incident, but she sees things in black and white and we sense she’d be happy if Zachary were given at least a life sentence. The fathers obviously don’t want to be there but for one reason or another they’ve agreed to the meeting.
Nancy (Kate Winslet) is the mother of the perpetrator. She is a Peace Seeker personality type and is the most polite, agreeable, and accommodating of the four... at least in the beginning. (If I were her, I, an Observer type, would have opted for making a phone call with my condolences for the lost teeth and an apology for my child’s behavior--not a personal visit.) She’s surely a Feeling type in the Myers-Briggs(R) system. She’s by far the most diplomatic of the four parents... at least in the beginning.
The most clearly defined Enneagram type is Jodie Foster’s Penelope, a Perfectionist. When the movie opens she’s writing a meticulous document about the incident: “January 11 at 2:30 pm... Zachary, armed with a stick...” The other couple objects to the word armed and insists Penelope change it to carrying. By now we know the movie will be about the feelings we try to bury that slip out against our will, despite how adult and civilized we try to be.
Penelope and Michael Longstreet have a nice, fairly simple apartment in Brooklyn. Michael (John C. Reilly) appears to be the least educated of the group. He sells kitchen equipment, including pots and pans. Penelope is writing a book on Dafur and is interested in art. Her hair is pulled back severely in a pony tail and she’s idealistic, identifying with the downtrodden and the victims of the world, not the least her son. Nancy and Alan Cowan are wealthy. We imagine their apartment as bigger and more fashionable than the Longstreet’s. Nancy is an investment broker and Alan (Christoph Waltz) is a hot-shot firebrand attorney with a million irons in the fire.
We see the fight in the distance at the beginning of the movie but we don’t get to know the boys. A fifth character is not mentioned in the credits. This is Al the hot-shot’s cell phone. Just when something is about to happen, it’s likely to ring and change the course of the action. Al always answers it.
To be continued. In my next Psychology Today blogs, find out the Enneagram type of Al, Michael, and the cell phone. For the hamster’s, your guess is as good as mine.