The silence in Roma: a tool used to confront us with the truths

We are very used to go to the cinema and listen to sound effects and music in all the scenes of the film we are watching. But, if we think about it, in reality, those sounds don’t exist: swords don’t make that exciting sound, our most tense moments aren’t accompanied by instrumental music and computers don’t make noise when someone tries to hack them.

But what would cinema be without all those exciting contextualisers that make our experience so much more intense?

It’s true that there are films with soundtracks very well thought out and very complex, that give loads of information scene after scene, but it’s also true that the excess of music and effects can devalue the film. But this isn’t the case of Roma (2018), the film directed by Alfonso Cuarón.

For those who haven’t seen it, I’ll make you a brief summary: Roma, to date, is the director’s most personal film. It’s a family drama set in Mexico City in the early 1970s, entirely filmed in black and white. Before its release, the feature film had already raised high expectations for such a realistic plot and was finally awarded with 138 prizes.

Here you can watch the official trailer of the film:

The aim of Cuarón in this film is to explain a bit of the history of his childhood, more specifically that of one of his domestic employees. For this, apart from an impeccable photography and edit, he used a very dangerous resource: silence. And silence is a double-edged weapon, because with it you can capture the audience or get them away completely.

In the case of Rome, this use of silence seems to me fundamental to faithfully portray the reality of any family in Colonia Roma in the 1970s. Because in real life, there isn’t music (well, yes there is music, but not like in the movies).

During the film, there is music, yes, but the only music that we hear throughout the movie is the music that’s playing on their radios, the music that they hear. Either when Cleo washes the dishes in the kitchen, or when she sings to the girl or when they dance at her party… In conclusion, the silence is a tool that also serves to immerse us in the plot.

Due to the lack of extradiegetic music during the film, the sound was essential to give vitality and strength to the story. In an interview for El Sol de México newspaper, Sergio Diaz (Rome’s sound supervisor) explained that, for 18 months:

“It was a challenge to go in each sequence, to edit and order harmoniously, so that the sounds have their own rhythm. And make people live and smell what was happening in that period and in each sequence”

Sergio Diaz for El Sol de México

They recorded the presence and sense of the city, without noise, which they added layers of sounds that no longer exist in the middle of the city, like birds, trees… creating like this the symphonic sounds of the city. In this way we have the feeling of being in every scene, they finally created an immersive film of the Colonia Roma of the seventies.

The first scene of the film is a good example, it was also chosen as a the teaser of the film. In it, we feel the water coming to us and we hear a plane actually passing over our head.

Answering the first question I proposed…

I personally think that Cuarón’s choice was simply brilliant, it gives us the feeling of sitting in some corner of each room and in every scene. The silences within this film have the function of confronting us with truths that would otherwise be disguised as fiction. Silences are how uncomfortable, thoughtful, scary and comforting they should be. And I at least appreciate the experience as I explain in my oral presentation.


Cine Premiere. (2018, 17 diciembre). ¿Cómo se hizo el sonido de ROMA? [Archivo de vídeo ]. Recuperado 1 abril, 2020, de

Digital Trends. (2019, 25 febrero). Todo lo que debes saber acerca de la película Roma de Alfonso Cuarón. Recuperado 1 abril, 2020, de

Filmaffinity España. (s.f.). Roma (2018). Recuperado 1 abril, 2020, de

López, A. (2019, 24 febrero). Así se reconstruyó los sonidos de Roma. Recuperado 1 abril, 2020, de

Padilla, G. (2018, 14 diciembre). Lynn Fainchtein nos habla acerca de la música que acompaña a ‘ROMA’. Recuperado 1 abril, 2020, de

SensaCine. (2018, 14 diciembre). Roma. Recuperado 1 abril, 2020, de

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