Wassup Rockers



ND/NF 2009: La Nana (Sebastián Silva) @ MoMA.

Hurm.  Well, I’m trying to pump out as much as possible without having my computer freak out.  Let’s see how that turns out.  A couple of nights ago, I found myself amid hundreds of older people who had the free time to go see La nana (The Maid) at MoMA for the New Directors/New Films series this year.  Directed by Sebastián Silva, this Chilean movie takes explores the tense relationship that employers and employees have.

In this movie in particular, a live-in maid (Catalina Saavedra) who has served a family for over two decades finally reaches her breaking point, forcing the family to hire a second maid to assist the first one.  Of course, the original maid sees this as a threat to her turf, what with not really having a life outside of this family.  So poor coping mechanisms in the form of harrassing the new maid(s) and other such hijinks ensue.

Before the movie started Silva gave a brief intro, explaining that in Chile there is a tendency for well-off families to have live-in maids, which is not really the case in the US.  But the power dynamic between the maid and the rest of the family totally translated.  You should have been at the movie theater, it was totally packed and we were all laughing and gasping together, and at the Q&A afterwards, people couldn’t contain themselves from mentioning that they liked the movie.

It was kinda weird to see how realistic the interactions appeared to be, and even though there were a lot of gaps story-wise–in the sense that they’re not explained explicitly–there are definitely telling moments.  The oldest child does not get along with the maid, and when she asks her mother why she can’t fire the maid, the mother just has this blank look, as if she couldn’t even bear to think about it.  “Porque no puedo,” the mother replies, obviously helpless.  The daughter, too, has a huge look of guilt when the maid finally collapses, even though the two have a very passive-aggressive relationship, and this look indicates that the daughter has a more complicated view of her maid that previously indicated in the movie.

At the Q&A that followed the movie, one of the audience members mentioned Sergio Vodanovic’s “El delantal blanco,” which is part of his Viña plays.  I also thought of Vodanovic’s play the first instant I saw the maid’s uniform, but the comparisons quickly dissipated.  Although both Vodanovic and Silva use humor to show a greater critique of class differences* in Chile, “El delantal blanco” functions more as allegory and its two characters (a maid and her female employer) are  strictly representative and not three-dimensional at all.  On the other hand, Silva does flesh out the titular maid of his film considerably, so that even though we’re missing a lot of back story, her actions and reactions reveal a shitload about what motivates her and what breaks her.  The director actually mentioned that whenever he saw how maids are portrayed, they’re usually caricatures, they’re types and never just people, so he wanted to show the life a maid with more depth.  I think he can take great pride that he succeeded and that he did it with such humor.  Catalina Saavedra, too, was especially fearless and her facial expressions were priceless.  She really gets the audience to root for her character, even though the maid is obviously off.

Silva, by the way, had never heard of “El delantal blanco.”  A lot of his material came from his own experience living in a household that had several maids, and I think he even mentioned that they helped him flesh out the story.  Pretty awesome.

Fuck, honestly, I could go on talking about the details of the movie forever, but I’m worried my computer’s going to explode.  Also, I’m kinda tired.

One last thing, Sebastián Silva’s English is pretty good.  In fact, he said his next project will be in English.  Sounded interesting and I hope it turns out well.

*From what I can tell, Chile is similar to England in that both have huge class anxiety, as opposed to here in the US where we are more hush-hush about class but we’re far more openly preoccupied with race.

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