When Julio, the main character in the film “Ulysses” wakes up, he’s bleeding from a knock to the head.
It’s hard to tell where he is. It’s a city, and it could be any urban setting in the developed world. Julio is surround by people and the noise of traffic which somehow seems to sound the same almost anywhere—that familiar rumble of engines, trains, walkers, the “buzz” of the modern, urban world.
Which I’m glad, in a way, that I don’t live in. Smalltown U.S.A. is a quieter place. But still, from Seattle, Chicago, San Juan—even Des Moines or Omaha—we can recognize this urban landscape.
In “Ulysses,” which film director Oscar Godoy showed this afternoon at Mount Mercy University, we’ll never learn why Julio was hurt. He’s a Peruvian living in Santiago, Chile, and his life is the tough going of any immigrant anywhere—facing hostility from natives, difficulty in finding work even though he’s university educated, alone and adrift in a cold, foreign city.
Julio makes his way, with determination. He’s not always a nice guy, but he’s got admirable qualities—he overcomes problems and survives. He’s the hard-working immigrant from anywhere.
Somehow, although I know the time and place was very different, he made me think of my paternal grandfather, who I never met. He came to the United States from Hungary years before he earned the money to ship his wife and children to Ohio. I’m sure his life was a bit baffling and hard, settling in a new place that spoke a different language. Julio didn’t exactly have that problem since he came from a Spanish speaking country, but his speech still marked him.
Well, the movie was an interesting slice of life portrait of a man living a hard life, but making his way.
I’m glad I went. The film in a narrative style that is very different from most American movies, but that’s good. There was little music to tell you the mood you should feel, but sound, particularly the natural sound of the urban wasteland, was a key element of the film.
One of the audience members noted that native Spanish speakers had one advantage watching the film and interpreting that sound. Julio, played by an Argentinian actor in this Chilean movie, spoke with a Peruvian accent that any South American would instantly recognize—the very words out of his mouth marked him as alien in his environment.
Well, even without that nuance, it was a thought-provoking film. Thank you, Dr. Belkis Suarez for bringing Godoy to MMU—and thank you Godoy for your insights into this movie.