The Aural Patterns of Alfonso Cuarón
How the director of “Roma” uses sound to reinforce themes.
“You know that ringing in your ears? That eeeee . . . that’s the sound of the ear cells dying like a swan song. Once it’s gone, you’ll never hear that frequency again. Enjoy it while it lasts.”
Those are the departing words of Julian (Julianne Moore) after the first meeting with Theo (Clive Owen), the protagonist of Alfonso Cuarón’s apocalyptic masterpiece Children of Men (2006). Julian lays bare the aural motif of the movie. The sound of ringing is a tangible representation of loss, that’ll repeatedly return provoked by the aftermath of explosions. Later on, we learn that the two characters are connected through the grief of their son, a victim of the pandemic. The sound leitmotif returns in this scene, punctuating their waning link. This time, an explosion wasn’t the cause, but instead, the sound rings for the frequency they’ll never hear again: the voice of their departed child.
There are numerous examples of aural patterns in the works of Alfonso Cuáron. Enjoy them while they last.