February 22, 2007

Babel - In the Aftermath of the Tower

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.


Lisa Francisco said...

Yeah, I'll go see this one. It is an notion that we're on this earth and we all have different languages and how that in itself can act as barrier to understanding each other. But with that said, people who speak the same languages still have problems and dividers between them. There's no peace with those who understand each other since language is not an issue. But there is still misunderstanding. I think it may go actually deeper than language. I don't know what it may be.

starry nights said...

Thanks for the review.I think I would love to see it.cannot go to the movie theater yet so will have to wait for the DVD. You have brought up so many interesting questions. Something to think about this weekend. Is Language a Barrier in a way?

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I was hoping to see this before Sunday's awards.

sharique said...

Thanks for the review. The movie did bring up the harsh realities of life faced my a shepherd in Morocco, a Mexican in US and a disabled girl in Japan, but it was disappointing to see the end. I mean what about the shepherd's son? and what about those lost kids?

gess said...

I have seen the movie few months ago with my Buddhist friend before she went on pilgrim to India. You can not leave the cinema without it has set a scar on you. I remember every detail. The title of the movie is misleading, because it has no religious meaning on the movie.

The film is simply a masterpiece, more than that. The other thing that connects all the characters is parenthood, and it scares you to death to see what parenthood means, almost you don't want to became a parent.

moontalk said...

i'd seen the movie a while ago, and i thought while it was pretty neatly done, the connection of the stories was rather weak...somehow seemed a little forced.
have u watched "Crash"? it has a slightly similar theme and I loved the way it was carried out.
about the language barrier, i think the language while it creates a lot of differences, is not the primary barrier, it is the refusal of the people to try and understand what the other is saying. words can only do so much, after all they are just the means.
but language does add another dimension to the layers of differences that we have created/inherited

EXSENO said...

I didn't think that I wanted to see Babel but your review makes to want to see it now. Sounds very interesting.