Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Have managed to see a few movies over summer and have been meaning to post some thoughts on them. Here's 5 thoughts on Babel:

1. This is a movie about the fractured nature of a world in sin and under God's judgment, people with their different languages and cultures, but the film also highlights the sin we show towards those of our own colour and race. Brad Pitt's character desparately seeks help in a small Moroccan village for his wife (Cate Blanchett) who has just been shot by a stray bullet. The locals oblige, even if inadequately, but he meets the most resistance from his fellow English speaking tourists travelling on the same bus, those from whom you thought might offer the most help and empathy, but who do not want to wait around to assist, instead hopping back on the bus and continue their trip. Their selfishness made me sick and was one of the film's more disturbing moments. Our sin is all pervasive - we can treat those of a different nationality with disdain, but we can do it to those closer to home too.

2. The film consists of different, though interwoven, stories set in different countries - Morocco, the US (California), Mexico and Japan. It's a reminder that God's judgment on humanity's attempt to usurp God is to scatter humanity to all corners of the earth, unable to communicate because of different tongues. But I was struck by the fact these different settings in the film were linked via technology - the scenes set in Tokyo include TVs in the background playing instantenous news reports of the unfolding events in Morocco involving the American couple in strife. At Babel, God frustrated our attempts to join forces together with one language and build a tower to heaven, but we keep trying to buck against that, building our technology towers and bridging the communication gap between different languages with our modern 24/7 telecommunication networks.

3. And yet, we are incapable of completely bridging our communication gaps and overcoming God's judgment on the world. Some of the most moving scenes in the movie come from those set in Tokyo. The character in the film who faces the most isolation is the character least able to communicate and communicate with - the Japanese school girl who is deaf. She lives in one of the most technologically "it" cities in the world, yet nothing can overcome the loneliness brought on by her disability. But it is more than just her disability. It is the experiences of her life, and especially having gone through her mother's suicide, that create the deepest loneliness, and causes her to retreat into herself, unable to truly communicate with her own father. The effects of sin and judgment on the world run much to deep for our technology to overcome.

4. All of this is conveyed to great effect in the movie because the director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, has a real way of building a scene - some of the scenes are amazing sensory experiences - from the throbbing music and strobe lights of a night club in Tokyo that made me dance in my seat, to the simmering and dizzying heat of the South Californian desert that made me want a glass of water (make that a keg of water), to the joyous celebration of an exuberant, yet impoverished, wedding in Mexico.

5. Inarritu also has a real way of creating gripping tension, making you want to cry out to the characters not to go down the paths they are choosing - I wanted to scream at Santiego's desire to hop in the car after the wedding and drive back over the border taking the children and their nanny back home, his protestations of sobriety after hours of drinking obviously being untrue. I felt for these kids, I wanted to protect them from drunken driving, from the folly of cross-border trips, from the parched heat of the desert.

Verdit: 4/5

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