Carol is The Lesbian Movie We Never Dared Dream Of
A few weeks before Carol finally,finally had the decency to air at least a preview in my city, I chose to abstain from any new and lengthy trailers. I forewent posters and interviews, press conferences and clips.
That one scene in the restaurant, which had been released as a glimpse of the movie early, had been enough to clue me in to what this movie would be about. Desire. About the desire one woman had for another. I didn’t want to know any more going into the actual screening of the film.
Just a few days before I would meet up with an old gay friend from college to see the movie in the earliest screening I could catch, I stumbled across an article in a regional newspaper. An interview with Todd Haynes.
In it, he said, that he couldn’t have named the movie anything else but „Carol“ because it told the story of being in love, of eclipsing the entire world except for that one person, of bringing all focus to one point, and that point was„Carol“ as the movie was told from Therese’s view.
And this Carol as we first meet her is reminiscent of a feline. Playful and dangerous, beautiful and elegant, but never predatory. Her eyes sparkle and I kept wanting to turn around to my gay friend throughout the movie and ask him, if he felt it,too, this pull, this feeling of inevitably being drawn in by her very presence.
I wanted to ask him, if he felt burned,too, by every hand resting on Therese’s shoulder,lighted up by every smile. But the movie goes further than simply portraying desire and making entire movie theaters fall for Cate Blanchett. It tells a story, the story of Therese, a young and meek shopgirl, who learns,through Carol, to want. And by learning desire, grows into being her own person.
This movie could have been a lot of things, but it is not about gay love in the fifties, it is not about a custody battle, and it is not about this very well explored topic of our times, lust. It is about an amazingly statuesque Cate Blanchett entering the toy department of a great department store before Christmas and as cliché as that sounds, two sets of eyes meeting..and changing everything in Therese’s life.
Words are sparse in this movie of low lights and soft sounds. Of windows and mirrors and long looks over tables and distances. We watch Therese watching Carol, we watch Therese watching Carol seduce her.
It is an amazingly sensual movie, that gives a lot of screen and space to its actresses. And as magnificient Blanchett and Mara are, in entirely different ways, it is also the camera, the light, the costumes, the screenplay, the music and especially the directing that are truly extraordinary and combine to draw one into the very intimate world of these two women.
I felt absolutely stunned by “Carol“, because I went to see a quiet, well crafted movie with a friend. I did not expect to feel so viscerally touched, warmed, shaken, by not just the movie, but its titular character.
It is a movie about falling in love, and Todd Hayes had been right, it could not have been named anything else. But for the Lesbian viewer, there is also something more, something else, besides being entirely enraptured by this stirring, yearning film.
Carol is a movie I couldn’t have guessed into existence after watching so, so many years of Lesbian characters on one screen or another.
I never realized, that with every love story between two women on TV or in a movie, there always, always had been some kind of price to pay, a male lover, indecision, celibacy, death, sickness, separation, being relegated to the sidelines, open homophobia, a tired trope, bad acting, no budget, horrible writing,etc.
I came to expect it, with such nonchalance, that I was possibly more stunned when „Carol“ ended, than Therese was when Carol walked into her world.
And how ironic, that of all things, in a movie, based on a book by the name of, «The Price of Salt“, there simply was no cost to one’s integrity and feeling. Quite the opposite actually. Quite the opposite.
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