Posted 27 November 2015 about Carol.
There have been many films in which a character’s name is also the film’s title; Rebecca, Laura, Amelie. It often indicates a certain potency and command in a similar way that individuals can have on our own lives, especially when falling in love; deeply, inexplicably and completely. This is certainly the case with both the character Carol and the film itself.
Set in early 1950s New York, adapted from the flawless novel by Patricia Highsmith (originally titled The Price of Salt), Carol tells the story of a young woman who falls in love with a woman she meets when working in a department store during the Christmas season. Therese and Carol are in different chapters of their lives; one an introverted 19 year-old aspiring photographer newly navigating her adult life, the other a distinctive and discerning married women going through a divorce. What they do share is a silent longing and their connection is immediate, unspoken and deeply felt.
Todd Haynes’ does an exquisite job at capturing the feeling of falling in love, the constant de-coding of one another’s words and facial expressions, burning doubt coupled with leaps of belief and excitement. Haynes also masterfully and subtly captures the sense of separation; the blissful separation of Carol and Therese with the rest of the world and the painful barriers that separate their love in his heart-breaking and beautiful camera framing, reminiscent of the Saul Leiter’s photography.
As with most adaptations, there are some small changes made in the film from the book but each one is considered and adds the silky, seamless stitches to this impeccably crafted film. One change is, instead of being a hopeful theatre set designer, Therese aspires to be a photographer. Haynes has remarked on this change as a result of noticing the amount of female photographers of the time in which the film is set. Many New York female photographers of the 1950s captured so much of Manhattan in their work with particular recognition to Ruth Orkin, Helen Levitt, Esther Bubley and Vivien Maier, all noted for their street photography.
Photography feels like an appropriate choice in other ways too. Seeing someone through a lenses is quite a fitting metaphor for the infatuation of a person when falling in love - close and focused. A sense of surveillance also springs to mind and is something that plays a key part in the film and is evocative of the menace that Highsmith so cleverly layers into her work.
Again much like the character, Carol has a refined shimmer and lushness like the immaculate sheen of a beautiful chocolate ganache covered cake displayed in a window – a wonderful, alluring invitation to a rich and fulfilling experience.