A BLACK AND WHITE EPIC
By NEVIN ULUSOY
Little lives of ordinary people. What makes a person who he/she is? Little incidents, the odours, sounds of ordinary things that do not change from day to day? People who are taken for granted, little comforts we have, thinking they will always be there. When there is a stream of change, what happens to ordinary people and to their little lives? Who are ordinary people and who are not? Are there really any little lives? Is not a person’s life a whole world, not less important than the world itself?
Director Alfonso Cuaron’s film “Roma” have caused great storms by telling the story of such little people and little lives. Highly autobiographical, he tells us the story of a middle-class family in Mexico, Mexico City, in the early 1970s. The district they live is called Roma, because it is considered to be a richer part of the city. Cuaron is a very successful director, among many films he has directed, there is the third film of “Harry Potter” series, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, which is deemed as the best film of the series. The film is black and white and it gives us a greater notion of the time of the story it tells us. The house is a very similar one to the director’s house when he was a child and it is his family he talks about, especially the maid and nanny Cleo. It is a Netflix film, so it could not be shown in Cannes Film Festival. However, it has 211 wins and 187 nominations, including Golden Lion in Venice Film Festival in 2018. It is the Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing and Best Achievement in Cinematography. The director is against the idea that the films must be shown only at the cinemas. “Roma” is also the foreign film which got the most nominations, with “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in 2000.
Life is full of crushing storms and terrible waves, but if we let our hearts beat freely with our friends, it has a lovely embrace in the end.
We see the entrance of the house first, they park the car there, too. A dog, jumping in front of the door, so much in need to go out, desiring the outside life is always there. Whenever someone opens the door, it tries to escape, but only once it can do it, to be caught and brought back again very soon. The floor is always full of dog feces. Cleaning them is a part of Cleo’s duties, along with cleaning, tidying the house, cooking, washing the dishes, washing the clothes and it may be the most important one, looking after the children, even singing to the little ones to make them sleep. Children adore her, especially the two little ones, but it is allright for everybody when she is scolded for not cleaning the dog feces on time and the master of the house steps on them. There is another maid as well, a country girl like her, they are natives of Mexico, sometimes they speak their native language. We hear the sounds of the house along with the radio, but the house is usually quiet, the silent thunderstorm is not felt much. The outside, the street is not noisy, street vendors come and go, day after day. They do not eat together of course, but sometimes they watch TV together, as if Cleo is one of them, and especially the children love it, want her to be with them, she has such a loving heart. When the mistress scolds her, she does not even knit her eyebrows, just silently obeys. The city center, a chaotic place, the rush of the city center, the opposite of the house, full of noise, lots of people coming and going. The girls meet their lovers, go to the cinema and let us remember it is the beginning times of free sex. The result is Cleo’s heart is broken, she cannot have the selfishness of the era. She needs support, but she is not the only person who needs it. The master, a handsome doctor, goes away, leaving behind all his responsibilities, like Cleo’s lover and “women are alone” just like Sofia, the mistress tells Cleo, after one night out and she comes back home, not being able to park the car very well, hitting the walls as she does it. She cannot drive the car as well as her husband, but she keeps going. She manages life better actually, never leaving her children and standing strongly in the face of the storm. Children feel the storm and they are restless without comprehending what is going on. So the two women support each other, fighting with the strong waves of a tumultous life. Mexico wants to be freer and stronger, too, young people want to struggle for it, but peace and freedom are difficult to gain. They are killed for their wishes by their own people, the protests are soaked in blood. Mexico, the place of a great and ancient society, is now the home of poverty and pain. Poor districts are in a terrible condition, crying children, mud and dirt everywhere. The fields are there, the sounds that have not changed for centuries in the country and Cleo remembers her home at a visit to a farm. We are thrilled with the heart of woman when she risks her life for the children and the waves brings her back to life again, to love, to sympathy and forgiveness for herself and for those who cannot love, men or women.
Yalitza Aparicio acts as Cleo in the film and unbelievably she is not an actress actually, but a kindergarten teacher. She has Mixtec origins. They are Middle American Indian people who lived in Mexico before Aztecs. She was the nominee for the Oscar Best Performance by an actress in a Leading Role. She has an amazing success in the film, so brilliant in acting. She pours out everything in her soul to make it all real and we forget everything else as we watch her, feeling life in all our senses. All the actors and actresses are very wonderful actually and it is the success of the director, in my opinion, every word, every gesture, every scene is so intense. Marina de Tamira who acts as Sofia was also nominee for the prize of Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. The film is within us now, always telling us our own stories, the ancient stories that today we have other versions of. Life is full of crushing storms and terrible waves, but if we let our hearts beat freely with our friends, it has a lovely embrace in the end.