At the beginning of Carnage a bull is killed in a bullring. But not before the bullfighter is pierced and goes into a coma. The bull is then carted off to the slaughterhouse and the bullfighter is taken off to the hospital. From there the film follows the various parts of the bull; meat, horns, eyes, etc to different parts of Europe as they cross the paths of many people.
Each of the lives of the people who encounter the carnage of the bull are examined in the film. But the coincidence of the crossings is more than a trivial anecdote because each of the people who are touched by the bull's remains are suddenly faced with some kind of serious consequence in their lives.
The film, directed by Delphine Gleize, is fascinating, complex and somewhat audacious even when it doesn't work. The characters, all of whose stories are interrelated because of the bull, involve a mother (Angela Molina) and daughter (Lucia Sanchez) in Spain, a nervous man (Jacques Gamblin) whose wife is enormously pregnant and a taxidermist (Bernard Sens) - who lives with his mother in a trailer - an astute little girl (Raphaelle Molinier) whose parents have an unwitting run in with woman actress (Chiara Mastroianni) who in turn is accosted by a suicidal man (Clovis Cornillac).
As you can see it's the kind of film you either need to take notes while watching or just wait until the end and hope it all somehow comes together. Thankfully, director Gleize – who makes her directorial debut – handles the material with the skill of a seasoned director.
Carnage may seem to have an anti-bullfighting message but that is far too facile. Instead the film is an attempt – via magic realism – to tell a story about communication and / or the lack of communication between various people who also happen to all be affected by the bull's remains.
If you stay engaged the film is quite good but part of the problem is waiting for all of the seemingly loose threads to join together and make sense. If you are patient then it is worth the wait – although to be honest there are no big secrets or epiphanies revealed. If you are not patient and don't like loose ended eccentric storytelling then this may not be for you. Still, it's fairly original.