Exploring emotional life in 'The Maid'

“The Maid,” Chilean-born director Sebastián Silva’s (“Life Kills Me”) second film, closely observes the tragicomic trajectory of an emotionally isolated live-in maid. Protective, even paranoid, about her position of 23 years, Raquel scares off each new employee — until an unflappable and compassionate one arrives, sparking deep changes. The Examiner spoke with Silva:

“The Maid” closes with a dedication to two maids photographed in uniform. What’s your connection to them? The film is really about a maid my family had when I was growing up, trying to solve an emotional relationship that was totally tangled, trying to expose what I thought was really wrong — to have this woman working for us, how weird it can be for the woman, for the family.

What made that relationship “tangled”? I was a rebellious kid — “I already have a mother and father, I don’t need someone else bossing me around.” When I got a little more conscious, around 12, I understood that she was a victim of her circumstances, that she was trapped in our house. I understood why she wasn’t kind to me, because I was a [jerk], too, but she was also very capricious and mean to others. She was definitely growing bitter.

Are you concerned that the still of Raquel in the ape mask might give an incorrect impression of farce or horror fare? I’ve really pushed that picture to be out there, actually. Raquel only looks in the mirror two times: One time she’s wearing the wife’s sweater, the other time she’s trying on the ape mask. She’s in an identity crisis; she’s in between being a [caged animal] and being her own boss. After 20 years of working for an upper-class family, she has taken on all these values that don’t really belong to her, like treating the new Peruvian employee [cruelly] and feeling superior to her in a very primitive and childish way.
What does the real Raquel think of the film? I saw the first cut with the real Raquel and the real Lucy (the new hire). I’d done “emotional research” with them for the script. Lucy was crying so much, and surprisingly Raquel was laughing at all the tricks the film Raquel plays. Raquel said the part she liked the most was when my little brother, who plays the youngest son, was on the screen. That’s a very Raquel-ish thing to say: She didn’t see it as a great film of her life; she saw my little brother, because she loves him.

IF YOU GO

The Maid

Starring Catalina Saavedra, Claudia Celedón, Alejandro Goic, Andrea García-Huidobro, Agustín Silva, Mariana Loyola
Written by Sebastián Silva, Pedro Peirana
Directed by Sebastián Silva
Not rated
Running time 1 hour 35 minutes

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