“Roma” is remarkable. It starts out loose and you wonder if it will gel. The opening interior shots are shot in wide angle which keys you into a space just this side of a dream. That carries throughout the film as it presents scene after scene containing that odd mixture of rough reality and the truly bizarre that I’ve always loved about Mexico.
Those elements jump out of the corners of the picture frame and always put me through the same process of becoming familiar with those everyday oddities, after which I would repeat the same refrain, “That is so Mexico!”.
This tone is consistent and so artful that it is nearly transparent to the story. The slippery but substantial magic that infuses this great culture supports and enlivens the narrative, supporting it very effectively from the background. The story is heartfelt and powerful, containing the motion from failure to triumph, wounding to healing.
The lead actress, Yalitza Aparicio, is mentioned for an Oscar. She has a natural strength that establishes the pivot point for the story. Her dignity and presence dominate the screen. Her failings and her heroism become ours. And in the process the profile of the indigenous culture she represents is honored and elevated.
The great sociologist Max Weber, known for naming and describing the “Protestant work ethic”, had an insight into this classism that has origins in our nation’s puritan background. He examined the pervasive belief in predestination that was central to his own Calvinist upbringing and found powerful threads running from it into capitalism and classism. The idea that our fates are decided beforehand and some of our names are “written in the book of God” became, for early capitalism, an organizing principle.
This reads like an edge-of-the-seat detective story about quantum physics. I never thought this subject was particularly friendly to being portrayed with this kind of drama. Most reading on sub-atomic physics is a kind of slog; a perfunctory sweat-labor with the objective of obtaining a walking around knowledge of the subject.
This book sets out the characters and the stakes involved with great narrative momentum. The assumptions behind the phenomenally successful equations of quantum physics (known as the “quantum foundations”) are exposed as unresolved philosophical issues. The questions surrounding the measurement problem (“who is doing the measuring”, “what constitutes a ‘measurer’?”, “why does physics insist on a discontinuity between laws ruling the very small and large?”) are still out there. And the fundamental ontological dilemma of exactly what is being measured goes begging.
This detective story never does find its culprit. That could be a problem for some but merely the effort to re-frame the basic assumptions and ask questions that have gone neglected through the power of the “Copenhagen interpretation” to squelch dissent turns this into a delicious peek into the politics of scientific discourse in general and physics in particular.
The book also considers the disaster that is logical positivism and the absolute necessity we face today of moving beyond excuses of solipsism, moral relativism and the primacy of a strictly measurable universe in this time of monumental crisis. The dilemma of living life as fully human and allowing for all humankind to continue to flourish hinges crucially on our ability to see where we have been misled by these pernicious philosophical assumptions.