V. Lepistö 🏳️🌈’s review published on Letterboxd:
Aesthetically wrapped in Americana from cinematic influences of Douglas Sirk to Hopper's paintings; this very lean characterization of the film's aesthetic influences is problematic and even probably amateurish but I'd like to add that it is likely that the more I get into American literature, cinema and painting, the film's layers will reveal itself (there is no way I'm stopping my viewings of this film to only these two times of which this second was even more magical). But being compared to Sirk and Hopper is absolutely no disgrace - cinematically also Fassbinder and Lean's Brief Encounter come to mind.
The relationship between Carol and Therese is almost purely achieved through photogenic means; the words between these two women tell very little and one of the characters who happens to be film buff actually mentions in passing that he explores the role of dialogue. 1950 was year of Sunset Boulevard but also In a Lonely Place in which Bogart's screenwriter character notes:
"A good love scene should be about something else besides love. For instance, this one. Me fixing grapefruit. You sitting over there, dopey, half-asleep. Anyone looking at us could tell we're in love."
Relationship in Carol is based on "being there", it is all about the connection, the strong presence, uncertainty that blinds the real emotions but never covers them from camera; when characters don't know, we mostly know but even then it touches us the minute we start thinking about our own lives. I personally hate characters just before I realize that they are the same way I am; when Therese is speaking, she isn't really saying anything and the only reason why I'd hate her for turning Carol down is because I'd do the same thing.
But to Haynes, there is hope; in a way this is "just" a period piece to him, he knows that things get better (there's image of a inter-racial couple that is to us normal but to the world of period piece something unacceptable, therefore it becomes a metaphor to us). We know the struggle so Haynes doesn't have to tell it to us, most is just there at the background in these darker tones just like the psychiatric treatment, Carol's social role as trophy wife, Therese's possible commitment problems and social fears, men who speak for women with their assumptions that destroy relationships and turn them aggressive. Carol is this way too a film about presence, about the things that matter - Haynes doesn't only show alienation by separating the characters from their backgrounds but also creating background as something that exists and influences the present painfully really. And this also rings to our modern day; how much have things really changed? Much but how much?
I never knew what I was going to watch as my first film of the year but the moment I saw Carol, I knew I had to see it again. I'm slowly starting to realize more and more about myself, more and more I'm giving myself a room to not be afraid of myself and just try to understand myself more. I have never known, I have actually never thought about it as any possible solution, I have always blocked it but I can't really anymore. I don't know for certain and it kills me. I need to live in the present too and therefore I need to know something. Best way is just to face myself and my thoughts. This could be a "coming out" post but to come out as what? I don't need to know for certain yet I know. This comes out as silly but I just realized it now, watching this film, that my whole life might be changing and I don't need to be afraid of it. This world is confusing and scary, "I love you" might not be enough and what is even worse, "I love you" might not be truth - people love versions of people, not the people themselves. Therese and Carol aren't just struggling in certain specific areas of their lives but it seems that their whole existence is problematized, this is simply existential dilemma that probably continues to bother them. The moment they realize that they must be their selves and somewhat succeed in that, other problems arise. It's a vicious circle but they can't be afraid. And neither can I. Perhaps Therese, standing there, does what everyone must ultimately do; try.
Happy 2018, I have no clue what it will be but it'll be there.
Carol is indeed one of the most beautiful films of recent years.