Although the Polish premiere of Carol will be held on Friday, March 4, Polish filmgoers still have a chance to see this remarkable love story between two women in 1950s just before The Academy Awards ceremony. At least in larger cities, where the pre-premiere shows are being organised, such opportunity exists. Yet not everyone knows that the history of making this film involved various difficulties that must have been overcome.
Let’s start with the script and its circuitous route. Based on a Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt, the first draft of the screenplay was delivered by Phyllis Nagy in mid- to late 1997. Back then, the film rights to the novel belonged to a film producer Dorothy Berwin. The screenplay was passed around various circles of the film industry. Different directors were interested in the screenplay and then dropped out. The real moment of doubt came about in 2010 when Berwin’s rights to the book lapsed. In 2011, Elizabeth Karlsen, a producer of Nagy’s film Mrs. Harris, called Phyllis and said that she obtained the rights to the book. At first, it was hard for Phyllis to simply say ‘yes’ and go back there. It was the painful road which brought along discouraging false stars. But Karlsen didn’t want to let it go and Phyllis changed her mind in the end.
Directors and the cast.
Before having Todd Haynes and Rooney Mara aboard, the director attached to the project was Irish director John Crowley (Brooklyn) and the actress who had a shot at the role of Therese was Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland). Crowley resigned from the project by reason of a scheduling conflict and so did Mia Wasikowska because of her role in Crimson Peak. Todd Haynes, an American independent director, was reached through Christine Vachon, a long-standing producer for Haynes and a friend of Elizabeth Karlsen. In 2014 Haynes approached Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) for the role of Therese, which she turned down before because of her need for a break after doing four films in a row. The film was shot in Cincinnati, Ohio in March 2014 and made its debut during the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival held on May 17, 2015.
Carol centres on the story of two women falling in love in early 1950s New York. Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) is a well-off wife and mother residing in New Jersey. In the search for the present for her daughter Rindy, this absolutely gorgeous blondish woman dressed up in a fabulous fur coat, is waited on by Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), a young clerk at a department store. With Rindy’s chosen doll being out of stock, Carol ends up buying the train set for a Christmas gift. The two remain in contact because of the gloves that Mrs. Aird (who knows if not deliberately) leaves behind.
Unlike in the book, we don’t see Carol only through Therese’s eyes. Thanks to the beautifully introduced perspective shifts, the subjectivity arousing from the point of view is lessened. There are three worlds around us. First of all, there is Therese’s world where she has a nice but definitely more emotionally invested in this relationship boyfriend Richard (Jake Lacy) who keeps insisting on taking her to Europe. She is surrounded by a group of friends and aspires to become a photographer. Then, there is Carol’s world that reveals her relationships with her daughter Rindy, husband Harge (Kyle Chandler), friend as well as former lover Abby (Sarah Paulson) and Harge’s family. The story raises another important issue when Carol has to choose, owing to the perception of homosexuality and the sexism of this period, between having custody of a child and being with the loved one.
The third world is the one that Carol and Therese share with each other. It begins with the meeting in the department store and results in a first lunch date, a visit in Carol’s house and eventually departing on the road trip West. It’s the world with waves of emotion sweeping over the two characters, it’s the world that evokes our memories of falling in love or the world that makes us wonder what it feels like to be in love for the first time.
Each world is filled up with a stunning grasp of colour and light, a marvellous capturing of characters’ profiles through the glass (Ed Lachman), a mesmerizing and touching soundscape (Carter Burwell) as well as distinctive but reflecting the reality of that time outfits (Sandy Powell).
Carol is not just a beautiful film with amazing performances, well-written screenplay, noteworthy direction, cinematography and costumes. We mustn’t forget that it is a project that required a great deal of investment among the people involved in it. It’s hard to resist Cate Blanchett’s words that the commitment to make this film see its daylight and the actual filming process constituted a real labour of love.