I must say “Carol” left a better impression on me than “The Danish Girl”, in terms of story. While one is the pursuit of a different self-inside, the other is a suppressed love – both stories challenged the “human” part of one human being, and both rendered incredible people’ lives. But I, I admire the strength, and patience, and self-sacrifice of Carol, a little bit more than the carpe-diem adoration of Lily – because I am more Lily than Carol, I don’t know yet if I can sacrifice my self-love for greater good, like how Carol left the love of her life like that, but I truly want to.
The Story of Carol
As usual, the synopsis making is tiresome, as lazy as I am always, this Metacritic’s description is already brilliant enough to introduce the whole plot of “Carol”. Starring Cate Blanchett (Lord of the rings; Blue Jasmine), Kyle Chandler (Wolf of Wallstreet), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Sarah Paulson (American Horror Stories); “Carol” is a 2015 British-American romantic drama film directed by Todd Haynes.
The screenplay written by Phyllis Nagy is based on the groundbreaking romance novel The Price of Salt (also known as Carol) by Patricia Highsmith. Set in 1950s New York, two women from very different backgrounds find themselves in the throes of love. A young woman in her 20s, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), is a clerk working in a Manhattan department store and dreaming of a more fulfilling life when she meets Carol (Cate Blanchett), an alluring woman trapped in a loveless, convenient marriage. As an immediate connection sparks between them, the innocence of their first encounter dims and their connection deepens.
While Carol breaks free from the confines of marriage, her husband (Kyle Chandler) threatens her competence as a mother when Carol’s involvement with Therese and close relationship with her best friend Abby (Sarah Paulson) comes to light. As Carol leaves the comfort of home to travel with Therese, an internal journey of self-discovery coincides with her new sense of space.
If you decide to spend 2 hours watching a two women falling in love, and at the credit you turn to me and say: “What a beautiful story” you would have my respect right away. This movie is not only beautiful because of the breath-taking scenes with excellent changes of color tones, setting the atmosphere so right you could not take your eyes off the screen; but also because of the raw emotions: of the immediate attraction sparkled at first sight between Carol and Therese, of their hidden yearning for each other, from Carol’s lingering fingers on Therese shoulder, to Therese’s wishful look at Carol; and the pain, the scars they’re willing to bear, in the name of love. Absolutely impressive and very well captured.
Three kinds of love
If you watch closely, you’ll be able to identify three kinds of love: pure love, self-sacrifice love and possessive love.
The pure love was represented by two human beings in love; not two women playing the loving game. Carol and Therese loved each other for no reason whatsoever, no start, no end. “Love you, because it’s you” – we will never truly understand it, if we don’t love crazily to the point of forgetting ourselves, despite people telling us no. The pain would be great, if they leave us one day, and you must hold your heart, shattered into million pieces on your hands. Yet, you cannot bring yourself to hate them, to despise them nor speak ill of them, because a pure love won’t allow you to do that. A pure love might crush you, wound you deeply, but it helps you blossom into something magnificent later, and you’d think of the heartbreak gratefully as it turns you into a better version of you.
“Only love is real”, yet love also inflicts real, invisible pain because we can never have something so good without giving something in return. And that’s how Carol has endured. She has this little girl who she loves more than anything thing in the world – the maternal love we rarely take into account but has existed longer than time itself.
Because of her daughter, she leaves her lover, starting to go to several therapist-psychiatrists, let them “fix” her as if she is a sick and worthless case, swallow her pride, smile at people who think of her as “deranged, immoral woman”, she has done all – just to be seen as competent enough to have the right to visit her own daughter from time to time.
She has tried until she could not take it anymore; she broke down and cried her heart out for she no longer wished to keep the act of a “proper woman”, because it’s against her principles of being a human, who is capable of love, of thinking, of self-respect, and honesty to the utmost.
She refused to lower herself to speak with bitterness and harshness, and not only that she kept others from turning to ugly creatures, as she told her husband:
“I want visits with her, Harge. I don’t care if they’re supervised. There was a time… I would have locked myself away – done most anything…just to keep Rindy with me. But…what use am I to her… to us…living against…my own grain? Rindy deserves joy. How do I give her that not knowing what it means…myself. That’s the deal. Take it or leave it. I can’t – I won’t negotiate. If you…leave it, we go to court and it gets ugly. We’re not ugly people, Harge.”
Possessive love was represented by Carol’s husband, by Therese’s boyfriend, and sadly, by the selfish part inside us all. We think we love the other, but we just want them for ourselves. Want them to be somebody WE approve of. Somebody we think convenient to walk around with, to show others as a prize. We don’t love them as they are, we don’t think of them as “enough”, we don’t appreciate their flaws, their differences, their unique features that only they have.
Just like Harge repeatedly said: “I love you”, but he didn’t love how she was self-composed and strong-willed that she decided her own way in life. He kept saying “I’m still your husband. You’re still my wife. Come with me now. If you don’t – if you won’t come”, and felt Carol was cruel when she refused to obediently did as he said.
Just like Therese’s boyfriend said: “I got a better job for you. I asked you to marry me. I swear to you, two weeks from now, you’ll be begging me to forget this ever!” But he forgot this fact, that Therese has never made him do that – She never asked him for anything. And that’s the problem.
We do things for the people we think we love, hoping they will be grateful, hoping they will treasure our sacrifice and appreciate us, because we have done so much for them, yes they should be grateful! Then we become bitter, if they stop adoring us, they stop showing us affection. We ask ourselves “haven’t I sacrificed everything for you? Why don’t you love me, because I have done these things just because of you, for you, for us?”
We have made a grave mistake, one that we never admit. We put the others in front of us with a calculating heart – we do things because we want something in return. Not because we want to do it or because of the joy of giving. I think we’re wrong. Think again, no one asks us to do that. We can stop doing that anytime we want, but we still go on and on, thinking what we do are so good the other must feel it and treasure it accordingly. But do they NEED us to do that? What if they don’t? Can’t we blame them, because of the choices we make OURSELVES?
Both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara did a superb performance, I am out of words nor praises for them simply ‘cause I don’t want to overuse too many compliments – the more compliments you give away, the more they lose their good intentions.
I just wish more and more people would embrace this movie as much as I did, and feel the same strong emotions as I felt during the movie, ‘cause the pain of lost love, the yearning for a loved one, the silent scream caused by keeping the role of something I’m not – for the sake of better days, I have endured. And I haven’t regretted any of it. It made me who I am today.