Notes on Carol

I viewed Todd Hayne’s Carol last night and was interested to read the many comments on A. O. Scott’s NYTimes review of the film. Gorgeously shot and acted, Carol presents an excruciating experience that verges on suffocating at times. Centered around the relationship between Therese (Mara Rooney) and Carol (Cate Blanchett), the film references identification, desire, object, and subject in a manner that never truly resolves, but maintains a persistent tension from start to finish.

As Therese, Mara Rooney’s large eyes and elfin face portray a young woman in constant surveillance of her surroundings. She is alert and attuned, yet fragile and vulnerable. Cate Blanchett’s performance as Carol recalls tones of Jasmine in Blue Jasmine as well as her nuanced stepmother in Cinderella. The smoothness of her face provides subterfuge for the inner turmoil we know she’s wrestling with.

Scenes of gazing and looking provide an interesting entry point into ideas of identification and desire. Which comes first? The two women’s faces phase in and out of searching for and sending out clues to one another in a world that prohibits language from carrying the weight of their longing. The film takes on a a strange pressure and sense of hazard early on and never lets up.


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