"Carol," the new film starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as cosmopolitan romantics discovering their reciprocated passion in the stifled world of 1950s New York, is stunning -- and not just because every shot, detail, and costume is given exquisite attention from director Todd Haynes. It understands how a homosexual romance can form and thrive against all societal odds, and it provides a pair of characters whose inner lives are as colorful and mystical as the film's wintry exteriors.

We spoke to Blanchett, who won her second Oscar for "Blue Jasmine" just two years ago, about making the titular woman an authentic, believable character.

"She loves her husband," Blanchett says. "She's happily given birth to a child whom she adores. She understands the way the world works. She thinks in a way she's found a way to exist without physical love. She's cut that off because that's only led to pain."

But Carol is wise: She doesn't deny her passion for Therese (Mara), and the movie does an impeccable job of conveying the magical thinking that accompanies falling in love.

"I think both women are slightly bewildered," Blanchett said. "I think when people fall in love for the first time, they say -- in retrospect -- 'I knew when I saw that person that I'd fallen in love.' ...They're not quite sure what they're doing. 'I'm just calling up a woman and going out to lunch.' They're not acknowledging what's going on."

The couple's greatest difficulty -- apart from being locked into the heteronormative demands of their own lives -- is even coming up with the words to describe their relationship.

"[Their relationship] accrues and builds in a volcanic way between them because they don't have a language to process it. Or a framework. Or a community through which to discuss these feelings," said Blanchett. "Heterosexual people didn't even have a language around which to discuss relationships. It was a completely different period." 

We also talked with the Australian actress about the inspiration for Carol's look (yes, Hitchcock blondes come up), her unspeakably beautiful costumes, and the collaboration that made "Carol" possible. 

"Carol" is scheduled for a limited U.S. release on November 20.