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Impossible photo?

by The Cine-Files

In Todd Haynes’s Carol (2015), the young heroine Therese is no longer an apprentice theatrical set designer, as she had been in Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 source novel, but an aspiring photographer, and the play of subject/object relations in her use of photography is an important Carol and Therese’s relationship. (Twice Therese points a camera at someone else — once at her boyfriend Richard, and once at friend and wishful love interest Dannie — but both are empty gestures, as there is no film in either camera.) Carol is the first and only subject we see Therese shoot.

For the first shot she takes, the shutter-click occurs off screen: we hear the “click” but only cut to a shot of Therese and her camera a split-second after the sound. By the time we get to this image, she’s already lowering the camera to advance the film. For the second image she shoots, the press of the shutter button and the resulting “click” occur on screen: we see and hear them. Thus, one would think, in this shot Therese snaps the image we later see in printed form. But this can’t be.

The printed photograph Therese produces from this scene is a close shot of Carol’s direct gaze, but neither of those can be true of the two shots Therese actually takes here. Firstly, only Haynes’s camera can get as close as hers appears to do (and her camera, which she calls “not even decent,” does not have a zoom ring). Secondly, Carol’s turn and direct gaze toward Therese happen neither in conjunction with the shutter-click we hear, nor with the press of the shutter button we see. Thus, the printed photograph that results from the scene is impossible. Whether the slippage is a minor cinematic gaffe, or a insightful point by a filmmaker well known for his reflexive media savvy, is less important than its effect, which is to illustrate precisely the difference between the photographic gesture (including the shutter-click) and the photograph.

Train of thought

by The Cine-Files

As in David Lean's Brief Encounter (1945), trains run underneath this romance from the start, though Haynes presents them only at a remove, in images of a subway grate and a toy train and, here, the sound of a real train approaching off screen in the present-day framing story, neatly matched (in timing and intensity) to the image of the little toy train in the flashback. The approaching train functions as a (sound) bridge between the present and the past, and between the real and the imagined. The flashback in Haynes’s film is not limited to Therese's point of view, as is the narration in Patricia Highsmith's source novel, but moments like this illuminate the role of fantasy in Haynes’s depiction of Therese’s obsessive love, despite the narration’s less subjective perspective and the apparent realism of the film’s style.

Impossible photo?

by The Cine-Files

In Todd Haynes’s Carol (2015), the young heroine Therese is no longer an apprentice theatrical set designer, as she had been in Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 source novel, but an aspiring photographer, and the play of subject/object relations in her use of photography is an important Carol and Therese’s relationship. (Twice Therese points a camera at someone else — once at her boyfriend Richard, and once at friend and wishful love interest Dannie — but both are empty gestures, as there is no film in either camera.) Carol is the first and only subject we see Therese shoot. For the first shot she takes, the shutter-click occurs off screen: we hear the “click” but only cut to a shot of Therese and her camera a split-second after the sound. By the time we get to this image, she’s already lowering the camera to advance the film. For the second image she shoots, the press of the shutter button and the resulting “click” occur on screen: we see and hear them. Thus, one would think, in this shot Therese snaps the image we later see in printed form. But this can’t be. The printed photograph Therese produces from this scene is a close shot of Carol’s direct gaze, but neither of those can be true of the two shots Therese actually takes here. Firstly, only Haynes’s camera can get as close as hers appears to do (and her camera, which she calls “not even decent,” does not have a zoom ring). Secondly, Carol’s turn and direct gaze toward Therese happen neither in conjunction with the shutter-click we hear, nor with the press of the shutter button we see. Thus, the printed photograph that results from the scene is impossible. Whether the slippage is a minor cinematic gaffe, or a insightful point by a filmmaker well known for his reflexive media savvy, is less important than its effect, which is to illustrate precisely the difference between the photographic gesture (including the shutter-click) and the photograph. In what seems a fascinating coincidence, this photographic conundrum ensues from a scene set in a Christmas tree lot that closely resembles the one in which Sarah Jane confronts Annie in Imitation of Life (Sirk, 1959). More to the point, this conundrum is the very same one that results from Sirk’s film, in which photographer Steve Archer’s camera cannot possibly have taken the photograph of the girls at the beach that the film attributes to him. The slippage, as in Haynes’s film, is provocatively problematic. See Barker, Jennifer M. “Be-Hold: Touch, Temporality, and the Cinematic Thumbnail Image.” Discourse 35, no. 2 (2014): 194–211.

Affect, performance, editing, and the photographic gesture

Point of view is slippery when Therese snaps photos of Carol in the tree lot.

from CAROL (2015)
Creator: Todd Haynes
Distributor: StudioCanal
Posted by The Cine-Files
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