What are under words? The dialog that is subtext or subconscious reasoning? Perhaps they are the summation of our thoughts that live beneath our out words and actions. The film Carol portrays the inner workings of several characters set against the backdrop of an early 50’s New York City. What is especially captivating is the visceral experience of hearing subtext spoken through well-constructed character and action, all brilliantly painted by Todd Haynes and his production team. He of course began with a rich resource (The Price of Salt).
I am still a fan of the 80’s comedy/thriller genre. Although not politically correct, films such as Foul Play accurately portray the real mystery beneath the parodied subplots of spies and espionage — the heart daring to love again. The protagonist piecing together the clues of romance, the mystery of does she or he love me or not, and the mystifying power of second chances. The juxtaposition of the greatest peril – learning to love again, set against the backdrop of a spy thriller further propels and accentuates the fear and the high stakes life of following your heart.
Haynes’ Carol delivers this and more. Further intensifying the mystery of their love is the overt oppression due to societal roles of morality. As his period pieces often do, it’s the unspoken that we are drawn to. In the film two men aspire to love Therese. One she is dating and avoiding, while the other steps boldly into the light and attempts to make a pass at her. She refuses him. An interesting parallel, as Carol and Therese bob and weave their way through innuendo and suggestion, further illuminating the subtifuge of not only new love, but love basked in societal taboo.
The film’s eye candy was light, as it definitively portrayed and reflected the spoken and unspoken. A very difficult walk to walk – a story of lesbian love, with all the tippings of melodrama would have played like a dated coming out film. Under Haynes careful orchestration, the film pushes past the cliché and offers a deep look into the frightening business of love: from the universal expression of the forbidden and unknown to the accepted and celebrated actions of the human heart, all is left to bare and bear in this poetic and courageous film. Poetic for the visual beauty, courageous for it’s unflinching simplicity of dialog and mood. Each flow into each other offering a glimpse and an homage to the novel – there is always a price to pay for love, both in the falling in and out, as well as the battle we forge within ourselves to define what is true for us, and ultimately, the choices we make to honor that truth.
I was coming out to myself when the film The Age of Innocence was released. Although I wasn’t necessarily captivated by Scorsese’s work, I was compelled to internalize it. Edith Wharton’s brilliant novel depicts the suffocating rules of society, the unspoken norms that can keep true love from actualizing, while also celebrating the benefits of loyalty, structure, and purpose. Too me, the film was a perfect parallel to the journey of owning one’s own sexuality. Perhaps if Haynes had attempted this film, his subtle magic would have seeped through and the message would have resonated more fully. None the less, it inspired me to exhale.
Under words don’t always need to be spoken to be understood. I think they run like a current beneath our feet. They are always there to tap into if we choose. They represent a way of connecting to others that won’t permit false chatter to thrive. They force each of us to dig deeper into our desires, our purpose, and to love from the inside out. And it’s in the inside where true love resides and ultimately lasts.
The film Inside Out is a breath of fresh air on the animation horizon. It too addresses the need to go inside and explore the inner workings of what makes us tick. It is romantic, heart-felt and nostalgic, as we watch and share in a young girl’s desires and methods of growing up. The inside voices focused on a singular mission, effortlessly being guided, and in some cases, tugged along. The introduction of a change (even good change can be traumatic) causes the inside world to turn and flip a bit. The result, a roller coaster of emotions, memories and actions. In the end, she moves towards a deeper understanding of herself and a more pliable balance of self love.
The delicate balance of who we truly are is set against the force of what we should be or others want us to be. In the end, contentment, if not happiness, is realized when we push out our truth, what we want, and accept the outcome; living fully with and within ourselves. Under words reveal the story of us, leading to an uncomfortably rich outer life where our hearts can roam freely towards the love that has awakened inside. And it is this tested sort of love that will not permit us to slumber again.