Carol is a beautifully made film which I sat watching in intense concentration so as not to miss a single second. It is a film that a lot of people might instantly categorise as being centred around homosexuality but I think that’s reductive and immediately labels the film with associations and connotations of our past experiences of homosexuality on-screen. The film felt entirely unique in its exploration of its key theme with the added complication of Carol’s child and their age difference. It was a very truthful presentation of self-discovery and conflict between being true to yourself or doing the ‘right’ thing in society at that time.
Because I study English Literature, I study a lot of poetry. I often find with this poetry that I can tell how clever every letter of it must be so I want to understand it all immediately. It’s the same with films. I know how much thought has gone into every second so I want to see and understand every second. But sometimes the beauty of art is the ambiguity and its ability to instigate a hunger for more and a desire to learn. Although it is frustrating that I don’t know the answer or the reason for the director’s and writer’s choices, it is also incredibly beautiful how endless the answers and reasons are. The film, for me, was like poetry because it provoked thought and defied the typical dialogue heavy genre of drama.
I love how every single time I watch a film, I notice or pay attention to new or different things. It means that I will never get bored. But, I do find it frustrating that I can’t understand everything at once, especially in such a fast paced society; we’re able to message someone and receive an instant reply whereas, only 40 years ago, people had to wait days for a reply through the post. Waiting was a part of life, whereas nowadays we expect instant gratification. I think this is why I have found poetry difficult to get on with in the past. However, I have come to realise that you don’t have to understand something to be drawn to it.
So, after the film, most likely in the early hours of the morning, I wrote a list of things about the film that I didn’t always understand but that I thought were interesting:
- Photography and cameras – capturing an image
- Apple – not the brand, which depressingly comes to mind first despite the fact that apples have definitely existed much longer. Probably since way before the Adam and Eve story. Therese, the character that falls in love with Carol, ate an apple just before they started a physical relationship. Probably because of the Adam and Eve tale, apples have negative, sinful, corruptive connotations which have been transferred 2000+ years forward onto a scene in a film foreshadowing homosexual love, which has been seen to be sinful and immoral in different periods throughout history. In the fifties, when the film was set, this was definitely the case.
- American road trip – this reminded me of Lolita, also a very intense watch, although obviously still and hopefully always a very immoral relationship. But, within Lolita and Carol the characters escape their lives and are alone together on the road. The characters stay at motels, which in Carol were always shown more than anything else. A huge part of the film was structured like a concertina of travelling in a car and then being at a motel and then travelling and then motel, travelling, motel. Maybe it was suggesting the futility of their journey. It is repetitive and going nowhere, suggesting the pointlessness of running away from life and also hiding the truth. The conclusion of the film did seem to be that there is no point lying to yourself and disguising who you are.
- Costume and make-up change – I read something about how Carol’s lipstick changes throughout. I didn’t consciously notice but like poetry, if I watched it again I’m sure I’d find that and new things that I hadn’t noticed the first time.
- Men – men were portrayed in quite a bad light. Carol’s husband and the men in Therese’s life were all difficult to empathise with and understand.
- Abby – Abby was a woman who Carol had known since she was ten years old and had previously had a relationship with. I felt incredibly sorry for Abby because Carol talked to Abby and Therese talked to Carol but Abby didn’t have anyone to talk to and was evidently very unhappy. Therese and Abby looked quite similar and I wondered whether Therese was a replacement of Abby for Carol.
- On the subject of appearance, all of the women close to Carol had brunette bobbed hair cuts; her daughter,Therese and Abby. The film more-or-less began in a toy shop where Therese worked. This was the place that Carol and Therese met. Maybe Therese was chosen in the toy shop by Carol to fit in with the other women she’d chosen to surround herself with. It was a film very much about choice.