Monday, January 7, 2013

Carol, the screen adaptation

Sometimes, often rarely, a day comes out of a hundred, that feels refreshing. Sometimes you read a book, and the story you read, out of the hundred stories you’ve been listening throughout the year becomes part of you because it’s sort of an extension of yourself. It’s that story you wished to read, the story you want to read all over again, that is speaking to you. But yet, you don’t know the story, so you read it, you enjoy more and more, chapter by chapter, you giggle amused, you smile with shyness, you begin to know these people, you begin to understand the meaningful story that develops before your eyes, until the last words, it doesn’t fail to break your heart, only to surprise you at the end.

Carol is one of the two books being adapted to the screen this year that I'm paying close attention and wanted to share with you. The other one is Jonathan Tropper's, "This is Where I Leave You".

(The story)
Therese is working in a toy store, the Frankerberg’s, for the Christmas period. She’s a nineteen years old New Yorker aspiring to be a stage designer who’s stuck in a period of stillness; she has a friend who believes will be married to her one day, but she doesn’t feel any love for him. People still treat her as this young fragile girl, absent of any parental guideness. Her father died when she was a kid and she and her mother have long departed from each other, putting an end to their relationship. People don’t seem to mean much to her, or at least don’t alter her in any way. It’s like she’s sleepy, perpetually, and something will have to wake her up sometime, sooner or later. One day at the toy store as she’s working, right at the pick of a rush hour, she glances at this beautiful woman’s eyes and she realizes she can’t take her eyes off of her. This magnificent looking woman brought something incredibly emotional, pure attraction out of her, that suddenly that’s all it takes for Therese to wake up. Almost suffocated by this strong feelings of affection, she sends the woman a Christmas card, and this is how their story begins.

I love this story for many reasons, one them is how clearly Highsmith creates these two opposing characters with Therese and Carol. When a writer nails this aspect of the storytelling it becomes a stronger compelling story. It’s in Therese’s young life and first love experience opposed to Carol’s, who is just going through her divorce. It is the duality that she creates between these two very strong women. In other lines, Highsmith also brings a very accurate portrait of the lesbian history, in particular, how many times women would lose their children in a divorce battle, for being considered homosexuals, in a time long before the studies would prove how all the reasons behind those decisions were wrong. It is also a road trip through America, another popular picture from the fifties. The story it's always so incredibly balanced, reliable and believable. I could be talking much more about the book but I choose not to, reading it is the true treat. I love this book.

With book adaptations we often prefer them in paper. We also tend to become the directors of the film, wanting to have done it in a certain way, with different people. But the fact is that there are books that really aren’t good material for the screen, I would say the most basic and recent example in the Twilight series. Sometimes it’s just better to stay in paper. Over the past few years, that’s a series of books I would say it was a really bad (also financially good) idea for a screen adaption. The films were all seriously slashed for some reason. The Night Watch is another adaptation I prefer to experience only in paper. But other times it works, a lot of times actually. Carol, to me, it actually works in my mind to the screen. I think it might gather the elements for a good screen storytelling. It makes me think that it can only become one of my favorite films of next year or maybe more. And Cate Blanchett playing Carol is probably a dream come true, I believe it’s the perfect choice. I couldn’t possibly think of a better one. She easily becomes Carol in my mind. Then Mia Wasikowska is also a marvelous interpretation of Therese, the protagonist of this story. But I feel rather timid when I think that the adaptation is on its way. I don’t even want to mention it often because it is still early, I’m afraid it will be postponed; the production may fail, casting changes could happen and so on; because I really hope this to go all the way. Nonetheless, I’ll be paying close attention. 

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