Babel

Tower of Babel: (Genesis 11:1-11) a tower built by Noah’s descendants (probably in Babylon) who intended it to reach up to heaven; God foiled them by confusing their language so they could no longer understand one another. ( wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn)

Babel, the new film from director Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Amores Perros) casts a global net on a simple human predicament, the inability to communicate. Four narrative strands intertwine, each with its own tension and climax–an American couple (Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett) travels to escape their damaged marriage; a deaf Japanese teenager struggles to overcome the death of her mother; a Mexican Nanny risks the safety of her young American charges in order to attend her son’s wedding across the border; a young boy in Morocco makes a horrible mistake with his father’s new rifle.

Iñárritu seems less interested in the black side of human nature than he has been in previous films. Here, the villains are minor characters, and the hard knocks come accidentally, as if to say there is no control over fate, everyone is just as likely to end-up losing as the next person. However, in this film it is the basic communication disconnect between sympathetic characters that becomes a powerful metaphor for the lousy state of things in the world at large.

The widely varied settings are shot to be at once spectacular and dangerous. The Moroccan desert may look red and mysterious for a few moments, but the travelogue turns into a political incident without warning as a bus full of tourists suddenly faces violence. A wedding in Mexico is full of music and life, but morning finds the mother of the groom tripping through the desert, lost with two crying children. In Tokyo, the giggly gang of deaf-mute schoolgirls meets a group of boys who actually don’t seem to care that they’re not “normal”. This turns into a boozy nightmare. There is some hope, in Iñárritu’s world, each of the characters may have a family and love, but this is shown to be, at best, a diversion against the real world, which is a much more intolerable, incomprehensive place.