There’s more to Todd Haynes’ remarkable “Carol” than what’s communicated on the surface. It’s a contextually layered piece of work where there’s a divergence between what’s shown and what’s said, where elements that once seemed transparent can fade and become a little more fluid and versatile in its visual language. The correlation between what characters say and what characters feel sometimes doesn’t overlap, and what’s spoken isn’t always what’s said.
That’s seen from the first frame onward in this fragile little gem of a movie. And that’s also demonstrated eloquently in Digging Deeper’s “Carol: The Love Story In A Look,” an in-depth view into the film’s parallels between what’s stated and what’s conveyed throughout this New York City-based period piece.
Because of the forbidden nature of Therese (Rooney Mara) and Carol’s (Cate Blanchett) kindling romance, Haynes’ film, by necessity, also cannot be overt. As its very existence of their love is, as the narrator puts it, “unspeakable,” neither can truly express what they feel for one another through their words. In fact, words can be coded, elusive and even deceptive at times throughout this adaptation of Patricia Highsmith‘s book, and that’s why “Carol” takes so much stock in how our leads respond to one another, as well as how they say things, rather than what might be coming out of their mouths. Therese and Carol’s behavior and reactions, as well as the language of cinema, is our gateway into their lives, as they live in a world where gender rules are strictly enforced and only men are allowed to truly assert themselves in a forward manner. It’s a delicate, tender balance that Haynes captures with rich sensitivity and quiet observation.
And these are only a few points that are made within these eight minutes, which also take a look at how trains are a motif for bridging the old world with the new, how the use of Christmas colors red and green visually represent each lead character in both their costumes and locations, and how these characters can often be boxed, physically and metaphorically, into the social expectations of those around them. Ironically, this is a word-heavy examination of the film’s strikingly visual presentation, but it still does a wonderful job of letting Haynes’ work speak for itself. “Carol” is among the most gorgeous and achingly realized films of last year, and let this video essay remind you why its genius may not always be seen strictly on the surface.