Last night I was on the front row of a very small cinema to see Babel. Four loosely connected stories told of a husband trying to get help for his injured wife in Morocco, a deaf-mute Japanese girl looking for companionship, two isolated children given a gun by their father, and a nanny who takes her charges across the US/Mexico border for her son’s wedding. As you may guess from the title, all had the same theme of communication, with a minor in cultural differences. Mild spoilers ahead…
I thought the tales were well intercut, despite being temporally out of sync., and the film stayed interesting throughout. I often disagree with people over acting ability, but I found the characters convincing and the star performances of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett nicely understated1.
I don’t know that there was any sociological or political point being made, it was more about contrasting the same experience in different worlds. The four tales were of communities within communities – a tour group, a deaf group, mountain-dwellers and two American children in Mexico – and each was a mixture of clash of cultures and the difficulty of engaging with anything outside your experience. Everybody had the same problem regarding communicating with the people around them, and dealt with it differently. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. The children adapted quickly to the differences of Mexican culture, while the deaf girl struggled for attention, sometimes too hard, and Brad Pitt had to deal with a scared and reactionary tourist group on top of the far more important fate of his wife.
Admittedly I see this everywhere, but I thought there were echoes of humanism: if there was a point it was that people are all the same, and we can only progress by interacting with and compassionately considering those around us. For once I’m quite interested in reading the reviews, as I’d like to see what impression others had of the various resolutions.
I left the cinema thinking it was a little like Crash: not bad, but nothing I’d really want to see again. But the parallels between the stories have played on my mind, and new angles and perspective keep occurring to me. Definitely one I’d recommend.
- having said that, it’s hard to think of a time those two haven’t been very good indeed, imho [↩]