Interview: Alfonso Cuarón Talks “Roma”

In a recent interview with his longtime collaborator Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, Alfonso Cuarón spoke about his recent film, Roma, which was released on Netflix on December 14.

Cuarón spoke about the choice to make the film in black and white.

I didn’t want a film that looks vintage, that looks old. I wanted to do a modern film that looks into the past. And you kept questioning me about black and white: ‘Maybe color is better, otherwise you’re going to look back.’ That was your argument about the 65, because it brought a different unapologetic quality to the film. It’s not a vintage black and white. It’s a contemporary black and white. Black and white was part of the DNA of the film. When the idea manifested, it was about the character Cleo [Yalitza Aparicio], the tune was memory, and it was black and white. From there you can change things.

Cuarón discussed the difficulty of nailing down the timing and improvisation in a film like Roma.

First is to find the space, when I start lensing, to go through the whole thing. Timing was the most difficult thing. People ask always about the beach scene. What was more complicated was simple things like doing a round movement, a 380 inside the house. When Cleo is turning off the lights we have 45 different camera positions, the camera can’t be in one place and panning. It was a floor with lines everywhere. Even before bringing in the actors it was about sorting out the timings. But the actors had to have the flexibility to improvise. Something I learned from you was communicating with the dolly or the operator.

Cuarón also spoke about the unconventional use of music in Roma.

In Y Tu Mamá [También] we chased the source, bringing it more to the foreground. Here the source depends on the distance and sometimes you barely hear it. The music was the sound of the places. That was part of the design from the get-go. It’s described in the screenplay and one of those things that you follow through.

Lubezki asked Cuarón whether he was satisfied with the film, and Cuarón admitted that he was.

I am very pleased because it’s what I set out to do. I had the luxury that I had the time to do it. In other films there are more conventional narratives. Here I decided what I set out to do. I don’t know if it’s successful. I set out to bring it out unfiltered. And I am satisfied, yes. That I would watch it again, no!

Have you caught Roma on Netflix yet? Check out more highlights from the interview here.