This visually sophisticated, thought provoking drama impresses with its striking photography, raw collision of cultures and seemingly unrelated events that captivate with their social relevance and universal human story.

Babel (2006) is named after the biblical tower of Babel from the book of Genesis, constructed by ambitious humans in an attempt to reach the heavens and thereby inhabit the realm of God. When God catches winds of this he decided to inflict on them a multitude of languages so that none could communicate or understand each other, thereby spreading mankind to all corners of the earth before they were able to complete the tower. 

The movie explores this same theme of people in places and situations that are completely foreign to them and how their inability to communicate results in tragic consequences. Made up of three separate stories that unfold in different parts of the world; Morocco, Mexico and Japan, it’s not immediately clear how they’re connected but eventually a thread begins to appear that seems to tie the people we’ve been following together. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle that we the audience must assemble in our mind.

The gifted Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who also directed Amores Perros (2000), 21 Grams (2003) and Biutiful (2010), takes one incident and shows how the repercussions have a ripple effect that disturb three separate families from various distinct parts of the world. Each country has its own unique visual style that’s immediately recognizable from its authentic locations.

A hunting rifle is sold to a goat herder to protect his herd from jackals in a remote Moroccan village. A Mexican housekeeper working illegally in the US takes the two children she’s looking after to her home town in Mexico in order attend her son’s wedding, while their parents are on vacation. A deaf-mute Japanese teenage girl, who recently lost her mother, is desperately reaching out for affection and acceptance in a society that treats the disabled with indifferent and prejudice.

This is a unique film by a passionate director collaborating with an international crew using a mix of high caliber, big name actors and non-actors to achieve an unparalleled level of realism. As Brad Pitt once said about working with the non-professional cast, that they have an intuitive innate natural sense of what is real, and that he and Kate Blanchett had to work hard to match their performances. Other notable outstanding performances came from Rinko Kikuchi as the Japanese deaf teen and Adriana Barraza as the Mexican nanny. Both were nominated for Oscars. 

We see how American tourists in Morocco find themselves dependent on the kindness and resourcefulness of the very people they fear. In Mexico two American children find themselves lost and abandoned in the desert after a misunderstanding and clash of cultures at the border. In Japan a frustrated and lonely deaf teenager is unable to communicate her feelings to anyone. And two Moroccan village boys find themselves on the run from ruthless government authorities after a foolish game of target practice causes a tragic accident.

Babel won the Golden Globe for best picture drama and was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, winning one for best score, but lost out to Martin Scorsese’s The Departed (2006). In my opinion Babel was the better picture at the Oscars that year and deserved to win every award it was nominated for. 



Bea Sempere (Denise Baer) said...

Great post! I had no idea what this movie was about. I appreciate how you tie it to Genesis and then explain the main drive of the movie.

I'll have to think about renting this one. Thanks for sharing.

Susan Cooper said...

Like Denise, I had little knowledge of the premiss of the movie. You explanation really help me in that area. It sounds like a movie I would enjoy and should take the time to seek our. :-)

KWade said...

I remember watching this movie in a sociology class in high school, it was great! It was a lot like the movie Crash in which there were a number of different story lines that all came together at the end which made it incredibly enticing and engaging. Great film and review!

Morgan Decker said...

I was very young when this movie first came out and didn't understand it well the first time I viewed it. Completely forgot it existed until I read your post and now I feel like I need to go back and revisit it, now that I am more mature it sounds like an amazing film I would truly enjoy. Great review!