Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara on their screen chemistry in the film.
One of the highly anticipated films of the London Film festival is ‘Carol’, directed by Todd Haynes. Cate Blanchett plays Carol Aird, an older married woman who starts a love affair with Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) 20 years her junior. They meet at a department store called Frankenberg, where Therese works as a shop girl and Carol is looking for a Christmas present for her daughter. Carol flirts with Therese and asks her what she wanted as a birthday present when she was the age of her daughter. Therese’s answer was a train set, a present that has to be home delivered. Carol gives Therese her address and when she leaves the store, leaves her gloves on the counter on purpose. When Therese mails the gloves to her, Carol calls her during working hours to thank her and offers to buy her lunch. From then onward a passionate, tumultuous love affair begins between the women. This is set in the 1950s America a period of oppressive social mores. Blanchett and Mara have wonderful screen chemistry in the film and at the press conference I asked them how they developed that.
Rooney Mara: My opinion is that chemistry isn’t something that you can create. It is very much the same way in real life; you either have chemistry with someone or you don’t. A director can create it in post [production] but it is not something you can work on. You either have it or you don’t. I felt lucky in that it was easy for me to feel chemistry towards Cate but not only because she is Cate. My character spent much of the film in awe of this woman [Carol] and was enamoured with her. That was very easy for me to embody.
Cate Blanchett: Both characters are quite isolated. Not only because their feelings for one another sets them apart from the worlds in which they inhabit, but the gap in their ages is rather significant, so they go through a lot, processing these volcanic feelings independent of one another. Frankly, it was a relief to do the scenes with Rooney. Finally we get to be together.
“Both of these actors, like really great actors, have acute interest in the narrative language of the film where the viewer is located and what that also means is modulating their access at times. Carol begins as the object of desire for Therese and yet all of the dramatic conflicts reside in Carol’s life. So Cate had to navigate the fact that she had been seen through these eyes of this character, but the big issues, events and conflicts reside in her story. That then changes and we gain access to Carol. By the end of the film, Carol is the one looking through the car window at Therese in the world, occupying her own station in life, having grown up, having changed. That means that both of these actors had to modulate and temper their performances accordingly in the story. And of course we are shooting out of sequence, under a low budget with constraints so that knowledge and awareness was remarkable to me. I saw that being confirmed in the editing room by the choices they were making as performers.
Cate Blanchett: What Todd did, which I found very useful is: the camera is so great at being objective or subjective so you were very clear about whose perspective the camera was catching. We were very aware of what piece of information to reveal in each shot which is incredibly useful to be able to harness that.
Written by Thierry Somers