Have you ever been so obsessed with a film that you could watch it a million times and still feel like you hadn’t seen it enough?
One film has made me experience this. Carol.
I saw Carol for the very first time in London almost straight after its release. When I left The Barbican Centre, I thought, ‘okay, this is a decent film’. Everything in Carol is completely acceptable: the cinematography, the score, the costumes, and the set. Some things did stand out, for example, the chemistry between Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, which is unbelievably beautiful. Carol is probably the best romantic film I’ve seen in years. However, this didn’t mean I was instantly a huge fan of the film. If anything, I’m not particularly fond of romantic movies.
It definitely wasn’t love at first sight, but how could I have known that Carol would be a film with such strong stamina? After a few days, I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about this film. I spent a lot of time watching clips, interviews, and reviews. I was completely afraid of missing any detail included in the film. When I wasn’t doing anything, a sentence or a scene would cross my mind. Can you think of anything that is quite so similar to falling in love?
I don’t think I am particularly in love with either female lead, although Rooney Mara is absolutely splendid in the film, and Cate Blanchett is, well, she’s… Cate Blanchett, a magnificent creature without a doubt. Both of them are glorious in this film. However, I believe what I am really obsessed with is what their characters have.
It’s their love that indulges me.
The story is about two women with different backgrounds, ages, and social standing falling in love. I think it is far too narrow to describe Carol as a lesbian film or a queer film. As Cate Blanchett once said, this is a complex story with the simplest truth, love is love.
You could call me old-fashioned, but I found that every glance and hand-touch expressed entirely the beauty of subtle love, and for me that is more significant than romantic lines or passionate actions. When it comes to love, the hidden details are what you don’t want to miss. There is one scene I love in particular: the first time Carol drove Therese to her house. The way the camera captures every small part of Carol: her eyes, her mouth, and her hands. The sound of talking is completely indistinct. It’s like when you are falling for someone, your eyes become the camera and will do whatever they can to capture every detail about this beloved person. One day you might forget what they have asked you, or what your answer was, but the way they looked at you is something you’ll always remember.
After I saw Carol for the second time, I started to wonder why I didn’t fall in love with this film upon my first viewing. I guess it’s because I found the plot slightly weak. If I tried to explain the plot in the easiest possible way I would say that you will find a story about love affairs; if the characters were all heterosexual then this story would definitely become a cliché. I found that I had a type of tunnel vision when it came to thinking about the narrative of the film. I think I forgot that the simplest things are usually the hardest to put into words, much like love itself.
I have heard about people who do not enjoy Carol because both of the female leads basically cheat on their other half. Yes, they might be unfaithful to their partner at that point in time, but when it comes to love, is there any moral standard that could ever be reasonable? If we judge Carol and Therese for going where their hearts lead them, are we not attempting to clamp them down with another ‘morality clause’?
I could dare to say that Carol is the best romantic film I have ever seen. That wouldn’t be due to the small number of romantic films I’ve watched, but rather as a testament to how marvellous this film is. If Adele’s song Someone Like You is an artistic manifestation of heartbreak that people identify with to the point of tears, then watching Carol is a manifestation of falling in love. I believe that anyone who has experienced love will somehow find themselves relating to this film. It may bring back memories of mixed emotions, or it might even result in someone regaining the courage to feel this way again. After all, Carol is a film that asks whether anyone should turn down love. Would you be able to?