movie projector film

Carol looks good on the silver screen

Poster from Wikipedia.
Poster from Wikipedia.

As part of our #LOVEzig Valentine’s series, we’re running a review of a cinematic love story currently playing in Leipzig… but not a cheesy one. Meet Carol.

What kinds of images does a train bring to mind?

A journey. A departure. An arrival. A loop. Boredom in its steadiness, excitement in the prospect of what it could bring. Something (practically) unstoppable. Subtle power. The occasional wreck, perhaps.

In the movie Carol, set in New York in the 1950s, all of the above can be detected, and a train can be heard or seen at several points in the movie.

It’s like the soundtrack of the relationship between Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) and Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara). Both do a terrific job in the “less is more” style of acting, their subtle, superbly controlled facial expressions saying much, and what is not said saying even more. From the first moment we notice them looking at each other – Carol as customer, Therese as salesperson at a toy store – we know that they won’t be just friends.

From Carol and Therese’s first exchange at that toy store counter, we get a hint that both of them are unhappy in their current situation in life and routine. “Shopping makes me nervous,” Carol says as she tries to smoke but is not allowed to on the sales floor; “It’s ok; working here makes me nervous,” replies Therese, who is considerably younger than Carol. The unusual Therese really wants to be a photographer, but lacks the confidence to go for it. Men are drawn like moths to her understated flame but somehow she feels unsure – although, by her own admission, she says “yes” to everything. At that moment they meet, Carol is unsure what to buy for her daughter as a Christmas present, and expresses some annoyance at the prospect of Christmas and knowing that she will, once again, fail to get the damn turkey just right.

She ends up buying her daughter a toy train set, because Therese tells her, when she asks, that it’s what she wanted to have most when she was the little girl’s age.

We just know that they’ll have to see each other again. Something (practically) unstoppable has been set in motion.

Carol is married to Harge Aird (Kyle Chandler), but trying to get a divorce. Sometimes I felt bad for the guy, at other times I wanted to punch him. He so desperately loves Carol and is trying to do everything to force her to be with him, including taking their daughter away from her and spying on her to use the results as blackmail. “It shouldn’t be like this,” he tells her; “I know,” she replies as she enters the home where she lives without him. She had an affair with her best friend Abby Gerhard (Sarah Paulson), and her continued and assiduous presence in Carol’s life deeply hurts Harge. Carol implies, though, that Harge knew what she was like when he married her.

When Harge takes their daughter to spend Christmas elsewhere, Carol decides to invite Therese to go on a road trip. Therese does say “yes” to all of Carol’s invitations, and it’s no different this time – and this may cost her relationship with her boyfriend, who wants to marry her and is frustrated at her reluctance to commit. Watching Carol and Therese get closer and closer, we keep anticipating the moment when they will finally succumb to the palpable sexual tension, but it takes a while. The movie is a slow burn. 

Will Carol and Therese find the courage to live out their passions – professionally and personally? Will they risk ostracism for their sexual preference in 1950s American society? Will there be a happy ending for them?

The trailer of this Todd Haynes-directed flick deceived me. I haven’t chatted with anyone extensively about the movie, and haven’t read the novel it was based on – The Price of Salt – so its denouement surprised me. The best part of the film, despite its beautiful cinematography in general and attention to detail, is the acting of Blanchett and Mara, with both having been nominated for Oscars. It’s definitely an actor- and dialogue-centric movie rather than action.

Carol is playing at Die naTo in the original at 7:30 tonight, Wednesday and Thursday, at 9 pm on Sunday (Valentine’s Day), and continues with other showtimes for the next few weeks.

A Global Studies doctoral degree holder and former newspaper reporter, avid eater, pseudo-philosopher and poet, occasion-propelled singer, semi-professional socializer, movie addict, Brazilian-American nomad. In this space, she will share some of her experiences and (mis)adventures regarding various topics, with special attention to social issues.

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