Psychological thriller about a Belgium girl named Carol, who while living in London with her sister and working as a beauticianís assistant is suddenly disturbed by various things around her, including harassment from men who know her, goes into a strange delusional state and finally deranged. It is a strongly introspective film crafted in a way that we see the whole story through the eyes of Catherine Deneuve (playing Carol). It is also the first one to be shot in English by the director.
It is an unpleasant insight to what the sources of strong mental illness could be, I mean unpleasant because even though it is a very well crafted film, it is far from being an ďenjoyable filmĒ. It certainly contains a high level of craftsmanship, it is very well articulated language allows us to be right behind the main characterís POV, but it has more in common with the horror genre than it is with any other; I believe this to be Arthouse horror. Same style he polished in Rosemaryís Baby and then revisited as he did The Tenant some years after.
There are plenty of convergences in the terms of style in these three films, they have a strong Surrealist overall feeling but then they also has that powerful Expressionist style from German films and a very profound use of the main characterís perspective. Delivered in 1965, this film was shot Black and White and features a very well structured narrative that add to what is being told, making the film a very remarkable one. As in all of Polanskiís films, there is a heavy articulation of all visual elements in this film, works for the story and it also works in each shot, thru very calculated manipulation of elements he renders well constructed shots that work spatially (as they sometimes work for the space in which they were shot) but also serves to a nice camera work that interacts with the actors and even drives us into the main characterís mind. A very good, carefully constructed thriller.
As soon as this film opens, there are obvious reasons to think there is influence of that short film made by Luis BuŮuel and Salvador DalŪ! It is a very nice extreme close up of an eye, as the films credits roll, the director also sets the way in which he is going to tell us all about Carol. First shots account Carol being entranced while working at the Beauty parlor, even the client notes that she is having strange behavior. Carol was apparently disturbed by her clientís old looks, or was it because of the ring around her finger?. Less than ten minutes have passed and we already know that this girl is having episodes that will develop later on. Carol is a beautiful assistant, she is so beautiful that she is constantly being approached by men, but she also has something about her whole personality that people (as we are to witness) donít quite notice, she is clearly not comfortable when she is around people, specially around men. Even though, she kinda lets go and walks with Colin (John Fraser), who asks her out on a date. You can notice as she gets very anxious after being asked out by him, she is biting her nails desperately as she is inside an elevator.
Carol then goes to her sisterís apartment, place where she lives. We soon get a hint about childhood, its just a hint but then the construction of this film is delicate, as Carol arrives she looks out of the window as she again a strange expression, we are catching a glimpse of whatís in the characterís mind, itís subtle and we probably wonít really get the whole thing until later.
Carol and her sister talk and we learn that Helen (played by Yvonne Furneaux) is dating a man, and that he has been in lately; Carol doesnít seem to go with the idea. After a while Helen has gone out to dinner with his boy and Carol is looking at a picture, and we look back to the childhood days, and in a way, we understand that this perpetual entranced state she shows has been with her since she was still a child.
She is constantly anxious, we see this again as she just canít manage to sleep because of her sister having sex on the room next door.
Different episodes with Helenís date make clear that Carol does not agree with him being frequently in the house, but Helen just ignores her.
At work we get to see that Carol has sympathy for a girl named Bridget, who is to be found crying in an isolated place of the Beauty shop, she cries because of a man; we see Carol trying to comfort her. Later as she walks back home we se she finds cracks on the pavement, Colin comes and reminds her of the date, and takes her out. He tries to kiss her and finally does so, but she doesnít really enjoy the experience and leaves him behind as she runs towards her house to wash her teeth on desperation. Helen then goes out for vacation and leaves Carol alone.
As Carol state continues to develop, she is dismissed at work, sent home to rest. On arrival, we see a series of images of her inspecting a razorblade left by Helenís boyfriend and as she smells a dress to find out it still smells like sex, she ends up all freaked out and throws up.
In a very surreal montage, we see Carol having a glass of water she turns around to find out that there are cracks on the wall: yet another subtle motif to her state, as Helen is out everything starts cracking up. She even has hallucinations about a man standing inside the bathroom just a few steps behind her (this kind of scene was inspirational stuff for some horror modern classics like Nightmare on Elm Street).
We are then to take on a journey through Carolís psyche as days go by and she starts losing it. What is real and what isnít? Walls crack up and so does the delicate line between illness and sanity as the episodes continue developing, three days pass until Carol is back at work. This time she goes into trance, she hurts the clientís finger.
So as this events unfolds, Carol finds herself alone at her house again. Colin comes around and knocks on the door, Carol wonít answer, but then as she lets out a whimper, he opens the door by force. He tells her that he wants to be with her all the time and, as he goes to close the door again, she is suddenly entranced all along and beats him to death. When Colin is lying with his head all messed up, as the blood comes out from his head, Carol realizes what sheís done and desperately tries to hide. She even puts a barricade to hold the door from opening.The Landlord comes by a few days later, he opens the place and then tries to talk to Carol, and fatally, decides to harass her; driving her into another psychotic episode. As he tries to kiss her, Carol cuts him with the razorblade: one, two, three, many times until he is dead too.
Absolutely lost in her madness, Carol cleans up and irons her sisterís dress (the one that previously made her puke); nights are restless: the walls keep cracking up as she continues to have constant hallucinations that drive her back towards the roots of her problem. And we can see she is letting go of the links with reality.
With total confidence in his visual style, Polanksi drives us into Carolís worst nightmares, some of them I believe to be of remarkable influence to modern horror directors; he sets everything up to resolve at the moment Helen arrives and finds out the whole mess to discover. The finale is somehow to be re-envisioned many years later, but for a male character (and in an evil way), in his film The Tenant. The last wonderful sequence is a wonderful description of the filmís title, we see within one careful shot the image of Carolís childhood as the camera closes in over her face, we see that she is seeing his dad in repulsion.
A wonderful study over a rape-abuse case.