Reading lists

From page to screen: gay love in cinema

The Penguin team round up some of their favourite film adaptations of LGBTQ literature, from Carol to The Tempest

Literary queerness hasn’t often survived the process of adaptation to the screen. Films have committees and boards and funding partners behind them, that can cut representation of queer, trans or BAME issues even more dramatically than in other forms of entertainment. The relationship between Celie and Shug in The Colour Purple is turned from an explicitly erotic and intimate sexual relationship into a sisterly kiss in Steven Spielberg’s 1992 version. The love between lesbians Idge and Ruth in Fried Green Tomatoes is sublimated into a very intense but platonic friendship in the film. However, there’s definitely a rich and ever-growing canon of queer lit and film to draw inspiration from.

Here are a few more of our favourite cinematic adaptations. What are your must-watches and/or must-reads?

The Price of Salt/Carol

Patricia Highsmith / Todd Haynes

Highsmith’s novel was originally published under a pseudonym, because of the stigma associated with a lesbian romance. Unusually for the gay pulp novels of its time, which were usually sordid tales with moralistic tragic endings, Highsmith’s book has a happy ending. The story was inspired by a brief encounter Highsmith had with a blonde woman in a fur coat, Kathleen Senn, while working at Bloomingdale's in New York City in 1948. The novel follows the relationship between Therese Belivet, a young student, and Carol Aird, a more experienced woman going through a divorce. Haynes’ adaptation, with a wonderful screenplay written by Phyllis Nagy captures the slow burn of desire between the two protagonists and the many different pressures on the two characters from their respective milieus. The two women must make compromises in order to be together and Aird risks the custody of her child. Ultimately both the film and novel provide complicated, important portraits of a beautiful relationship.

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