Babel is a 2006 drama film set in Morocco, Japan, the USA and Mexico and follows a chain reaction of events that affect the lives of several seemingly unrelated people in three corners of the world. The title of the film is a little misleading, this film has nothing to do with the biblical city of Babylon or the Tower of Babel as described in the Bible. In fact, the title is derived from a mispronunciation of the director’s original name by one of his colleagues.
Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (21 Grams) and starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Gael Garcia Bernal this epic story encompasses the idea that one potentially minor incident can have severe knock on effects on people on the other side of the planet and encourages you to contemplate the ‘what if’ notion in great depth. The story begins in rural Morocco where two young boys find their fathers rifle and decide to test out its range, they shoot it at traffic and one of the bullets hits tourist Susan Jones (Blanchett) who is travelling with her husband Richard (Pitt) as a way of overcoming the recent death of their son. The two boys upon learning of the error believe the American woman they shot to be dead, but she is in fact in a neighbouring village being treated by a veterinarian. The authorities become involved and discover that the rifle was given to their father by a friend who bought it off a Japanese man. The family flee but are cornered by the authorities and are all shot, possibly fatally – it is not made clear who dies and who lives.
Meanwhile, in Japan, a young deaf girl, Cheiko Wataya, is struggling with her adolescence and is having trouble dealing with her mother’s suicide. She acts aggressively and provocatively towards her father and the boys in her class. She exposes herself to a boy as a way of communicating with him that she finds him sexually attractive. She encounters two police detectives who question her about her father, she doesn’t know what her father has done wrong but she thinks it has something to do with her mothers suicide. She in fact finds out that they want to ask him about a recent hunting trip he took to Morocco where he sold a rifle to a man from one of the villages.
The film turns towards the two children of Richard and Susan Jones back in America. The children are being cared for by their Mexican maid Amelia. When they are delayed returning back to America due to Susan being shot, she is forced to stay and take care of them for much longer than had been planned. She fears she will miss her son’s wedding so she takes the children across the border to a town near to Tijuana so she can attend. While there, her nephew Santiago (Bernal) offers to take the children back despite being intoxicated. He is refused entry into the USA and the authorities question his situation. The children and Amelia are left to spend the night in the desert. Amelia is arrested by border control and the children are returned home. Amelia is detained and exported due to working in the USA illegally for 16 years.
The sprawling narrative, the exceptional efforts from the cast and the message of the film earned it seven Academy Award nominations, Gustavo Santaollala scooped up a BAFTA and an Oscar for the music and the film won the Golden Globe for Best Drama Film. It most certainly is memorable and in places hard to watch, especially as the sexual advances of Cheiko Wataya are devastatingly rejected by one of the detectives. It is weird, it is unusual and it definitely isn’t to everyone’s taste but it is an impressive film not only because of how expansive it is but because it communicates a terrifying idea that perhaps our actions, once upon a time, have had an affect on someone without you knowing anything about it. When a film can encourage in depth thought processes and a long discussion afterwards, it’s a winner in my book.
You can borrow Babel from us, it is in the DVD ZONE shelved at 791.43 B