Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s movie 'Babel' has been running in at least one of my neighborhood cinemas for the last so many weeks, and that in itself says something about its poularity.
The title has religious undertones, but apart from a possible underlying theme, the movie has nothing to do with religion. Shot across four different countries, the movie presents some captivating and diverse landscapes, which obviously gels well with the theme. If Pan's Labyrinth presented a dual storyline, Babel has a threesome! There are three stories unfolding, almost simultaneously, at three different places: a Moroccan desert village, the city of Tokyo, and the US Mexico border. It is to the credit of the story teller how he manages to get these stories to converge in such a lucid and cohesive way.
Brad Pitt was perhaps a major attraction for many moviegoers, but his star presence was muted in the larger frame of this story that had some riveting characters played by stellar actors like Bernal and Kikuchi. Kikuchi plays an 18 year old deaf and mute Japanese girl, who, starved of male attention due to her handicap, is now desperate to lose her virginity to the first male who will take her. Then there is the sincere Mexican nanny, played by Barraza, who almost dies while trying to save the two American children to whom she's been 'mother ever since they were born' . Barraza does a remarkable job of highlighting the plight of illegal immigrants in the US while Santiago, her nephew in the movie, played by Gael Garcia Bernal of the "Motorcycle Diaries' fame, espouses the deep felt resentment of unemployed Mexicans across the border who are but a stones throw away from the land of opportunity, and yet cannot reach it! Finally, on the third front we have the stunning Moroccan landscape inhabited by a people eking out a life in an almost uninhabitable environment, and yet they have it in them to be hospitable to foreigners who unfortunately fear them as propective or possible Islamic terrorists.
As for the title, I leave that for you to figure out along with these questions that I battled with after watching the movie and then reading certain parts of Genesis 11:1-9 :
- Why did God " go down (to Babylon), and there confuse their (man's) language, that they may not understand one another's speech", simply because man aspired to be godlike and wanted to build a tower that'd reach the heavens?
- Are we a fragmented world because of the curse of multiple languages that have sprouted across the world?
- Does language, or the lack of it, isolate us from our own kind?
- Have we failed to make cities, and like Nimrods, our settlements across the world have failed to satisfy the desires of the human body and soul?
This is a movie you'd wish you had seen if you chance to miss it.