“Carol” in Love
By Skip Sheffield
“The Love That Dare Not Speak its Name” is sensitively and sympathetically depicted in “Carol,” a film directed by Todd Haynes, based on the novel “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith.
The novel was published in 1952 under a pseudonym; due to its taboo subject matter: two women in love.
Those women are elegant Carol Aird, played by Cate Blanchett and pixiish Therese Belivet, played by Rooney Mara. The setting is New York City. Therese is a department store salesgirl. She is wearing a mandated Santa cap for the Christmas season, and she instantly catches the eye of Carol, an older, well-off woman who feigns interest in buying a doll for her daughter just to meet and talk to Therese.
“Carol” is one of those movies with bookends. The first scene is really the last scene. It only makes sense when you have experienced the dramatic romantic adventure of Carol and Therese.
This isn’t the first time Carol has been attracted to another woman, despite being married to John Aird (Michael Haney), and having two daughters with him.
In either a subconscious or deliberate act, Carol leaves her gloves behind at the sales counter. Therese dutifully tracks her down to her house. Sparks are already flying, and although Therese has an adoring boyfriend who works at the New York Times and can help her with a career as a photographer there, she accepts a lunch invitation from Carol. Over martinis and cigarettes Carol explains that “technically she is divorced.” She boldly invites Therese to visit her at her house that Sunday.
Carol’s husband is no fool. Instinctively he knows something is afoot when he sees the attractive young woman and his wife’s adoring glances. In a daring move, Carol and Therese take off on a road trip to no particular destination. There love is consummated in a motel room, but it is staged so artfully and subtly it does not qualify even for soft porn.
Romantic love is tumultuous, regardless of your partner. Carol and Therese will find no easy path.
We have come a long way since 1952, when Patricia Highsmith felt she couldn’t put her real name on her lesbian love novel. We come even farther since 1895, when Oscar Wilde was tried and imprisoned for indecent behavior in a London trial where Lord Alfred Douglas’s poem that spoke of “The Love that dare not speak its name” was cited. Wilde was convicted, spent two years in prison, three years in exile and died at age 45 in Paris.