Narrative Flashbacks in Carol

Todd Haynes’s Carol opens with a close up of sewer grate, framing it as an barrier between the screen and our gaze, however, the camera tilts upwards revealing a busy Manhattan street, situating us within the cityscape on screen. Carol’s central narrative focuses on the relationship between Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) with Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) executed through a long drawn out flashback triggered by Therese sitting in the back seat of a car, looking out the backseat window.

Carol invites the viewer through Therese’s reminiscing on her past relationship with Carol, capturing their time together with a distant point of view characterized by the muted, soft toned colour palette of warm browns, green, while there’s a trace of cold lighting throughout the night lit scenes. Carol opens with the aforementioned scene, leading towards the two leads holding an intimate conversation with one another, however, we aren’t part of the conversation; as viewers, we are offered the visual body language elicited by Therese and Carol. The film belongs to the main actresses, Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett, alongside the narrative driven flashback.

There’s a single scene within the beginning of the 2nd act wherein Therese’s memories collide with her present consciousness and the film takes on a dreamlike quality, transporting us into a dimension in between Therese’s consciousness and subconscious. The film establishes the operating framework of character and narrative focus, while this scene opens another layer that has not been explored earlier in the film, visually led by the entire scene taking place within their car travelling inside a tunnel, with the final shot capturing the end of the tunnel with the sun casting light towards the screen. This instance ties into the sexual fluidity the characters posses as reflected by the films visual and editing; surpassing the established narrative focus and exploring another sphere within Therese.

Carol guides us throughout Therese’s memory while exploring her relationship with Carol and her own identity. The finale brings Therese and Carol together, as Therese decides her own choices for herself, as Carol looks onto her as we watched Therese grow throughout the film.

Written by Angel Perez

Media Enthusiast