Cinema Junkie by Beth Accomando
Saturday, November 4, 2006
Brad Pitt stars in Babel.
With Babel (opening November 3 at Landmark's La Jolla Village Cinemas), Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu and writer Guillermo Arriaga complete a planned trilogy that began with Amores Perros , continued with 21 Grams and concludes with Babel.
The arrival of Babel serves as the unofficial start of the Oscar season. It marks the beginning of the studios serious dramas and Oscar hopefuls. No doubt someone has already anointed it this years Crash . But since I was put off by the heavy-handed self-importance of that Best Picture Oscar winner from last year, I would like to dismiss that comparison up front.
Babel is thematically and stylistically linked to Irritu's two previous films, Amores Perros and 21 Grams , but the films avoid any direct narrative links or overlapping plot and characters. All three are sprawling multi-character works in which multiple plot strands slowly converge to bring a group of strangers together in unexpected ways. In Amores Perros , a car accident weaves three sets of characters together to explore the emotional wreckage that follows the physical smash-up. In 21 Grams , the hit and run deaths of two little girls brings another triptych of stories together for a meditation on loss and grief. Irritus Amores Perros pulsed with life - running a gamut of emotions and experiences. But 21 Grams felt relentlessly one-note as it dallied with a limited emotional range. Now Babel comes along and falls somewhere in between the two.
November 20, 2006 at 01:54 AM
Nothing about this film "soars." It is simply a contrived, trendy, pretentious, simple-minded, emotionally manipulative piece of trendy tripe. -----
November 21, 2006 at 01:54 AM
The ideas of the movie aregreat but the movie did not express those ideas so well. I wanted mymoney back after seeing it.
November 22, 2006 at 12:32 AM
I disagree with the above comments. Normally I do not enjoy this type of movie, but my husband waned to see it. I thought it was very thought provoking. I'm still going over it in my mind. We thought the acting was suberb, especially by the lesser knowns. I would like to see it again just to pay more attention to some of the dialogue. Would definetely recommend it. Tis movie is Oscar material.
November 26, 2006 at 04:29 AM
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November 26, 2006 at 10:23 PM
Before seeing the movie and knowing the story of Babel, I expected a parable and was pleased that it was perfect. The stories were scattered, often chaotic, there was little if no communication, different languages as well as countries,yet everyone was connected. And because it followed the Bible story, you knew God had to forgive which is why the ending could have been trite, but wasn't. It was a visually beautiful and disturbing movie and I loved it!
November 27, 2006 at 12:50 AM
This movie had the finest acting, directing of any movie this year. Period.
November 27, 2006 at 01:38 AM
---Quoted--- The first stupid act we have to accept and one that figures prominently in setting the whole film inmotion is that the American couple (Pitt and- Blanchett) would leave their two young child-ren with Amelia, an illegal immigrant nanny, whi-le they vacation in - of all places - Morocco in order to overcome their grief at having just lost their infant child to what appears to have been SIDS. Wouldn’t this be a time to appreciate the children they still have and to comfort them over the loss of their sibling rather than to travel off alone to some foreign country? Plus, they have apparently arranged their trip at exactly the same time that Amelia’s son is getting married. So the next contrivance we have to accept is that no one anywhere can be found to look after the two kids while Amelia goes to Mexico for her son’s wedding. More leaps of faith are required as Irritu’s biblical allegory plays out, and that hurts the film. ---Quoted--- Its all perfectly plausible and its completely explained in the movie. You just didnt get it. Its perectly normal. In LA, its normal to have mexican nannies. Its difficult to really know when someone is an illegal immigrant or not. You can rent and live in california for many years and work in underground underpaid jobs like a nanny, gardenere,etc. They will live their children with a nanny that has been taking care of them for 16 years. Then we don't really know if that was the case. We just know that they were taken care for two days only. They could ended up with the nanny because of the delay. They didn't arrange the trip as amelia's son is getting married. Its a cultural difference. In mexico is normal to have impromptu weddings. She was pregnated so they ended up having a marriage. Third. The children could have been taken care by many people. But it was the decision of the nanny. There lies the mistake she was talking about in the end of the movie. She was not bad, she just made big mistakes. Another cultural difference. Mexicans tend to carry their offspring to all their parties. Weddings in mexico are a family thing. So its normal and acceptable. The whole movie is about the cultural differences and tolerance.
November 27, 2006 at 07:28 PM
This film is without question one of the most shabbily executed efforts by a director I have ever had the displeasure of experiencing. The film should be classified as torture under the Geneva convention. Babel fails at every level, its sophmoric attempt to be "thought provoking", leads the viewer through an film editing nightmare of laborious nonsense. The zero character developement approach is inexcusable as this film repeatedly asks the viewer to deeply care about people we simply don't know. Nor is there any context placed to the lives of these characters, so what one is left with is the hope of a plot capable of unifying the mess in the end. Unfortunately the writing is so bad that a story line is unfathomable. The dialogue is contrived and jerky in its motion, only then to be interrupted by the chainsaw approach to editing of each scene, leaving the viewer with the agonizing task of comprehending the vague intent of this misguided project. The director then adds to this failed recipe, with a set of gratuitously scattered cheap camera shots meant to "shock" the audience, revealing just pure sleaze. After viewing this film I wanted to wash my clothes from the stench. This film is not just bad, it is atrocious, without a single redeeming quality. Give me my money back, plus pay me for the time wasted in sitting through almost three hours of utterly fraudulent art.
December 04, 2006 at 03:13 AM
First of all I just wanted to respond to Arturo's comments. What is not plausible to me about the film is that the American parents leave their two children after their baby has died. As a parent, I cannot imagine having a child die and then leaving my surviving children with anyone be it a Mexican nanny or their grandparents so that I could go on a trip. Plus, neither Pitt's character nor Blanchett's seemed to have any inherent interest in the country they chose to visit. As for the wedding being impromptu, Amelia mentions that the parents were supposed to come back in time for her to go to the wedding so they all knew that the trip was occurring close to the wedding date. And finally, the nanny desperately tries to find someone to leave the kids with because she is concerned about taking them across the border. You mention "Another cultural difference. Mexicans tend to carry their offspring to all their parties." Well that's true for a lot of cultures. But I don't think it's "normal and acceptable" for a woman who knows that she is an illegal immigrant to take two American children across the border for a wedding, and then to return at two in the morning with a drunken nephew who also is an illegal immgrant and who we witnessed shooting off a gun. Why didn't she just spend the night in Mexico and let her nephew sleep and sober up. Amelia is not depicted as a stupid person so this stupid behavior comes across as unbelievable to me. When you are scripting a story, you have to make the events plausible enough for the audience to believe and on these points, I simply did not find it credible. I appreciate the cultural difference Innaritu tries to explore but I have a difficult time believing how he makes his characters behave. As for the other people who commented, thanks for the remarks. This film really prompted very divided emotions in me. I like many aspects of the film but then felt infuriated by others.
January 01, 2007 at 10:21 PM
I was confused by the phone calls from Brad Pitt to his children. In the first call, his son tells about holding a hermit crab in school. After getting his wife to the hospital in Morroco, he calls the kids again and his son tells him the same story about school. Is this supposed to be the same phone call or is the kid repeating himself?
January 06, 2007 at 09:44 AM
When I went to see the movie I actually had no idea what it was all about. I went in with an open mind and Damn,was it worth it. What I enjoyed is the fact that one is not "spoon-fed" in Babel. Each scene gets you thinking-very much thought provoking. A MUST SEE FOR ANYONE WITH A BRAIN!!!!
January 06, 2007 at 02:20 PM
Agree the "stars" in this had relatively little to do and that the movie belongs to Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi, Said Tarchani and Boubker Ait El Caid. I was wondering how the Japanese story was to be woven into the fabric involving the Americans, Mexicans and Moroccans. The device was not without some artifice but satisfying despite that.
January 16, 2007 at 06:12 PM
This movie is a BORING movie and is not provocative film at all!!! Three storylines are "connected" but really, connection between them is stupid and NOT important because is accidental - japanes hunter gives rifle as a gift to morrocan hunter's guide and his kids shoots american tourist!!!!???? Big deal, who cares! All content in this movie is seen before so only the fact that theese three stories are connected makes this movie different but , like I said before, because connection is irrelevant movie is irrelevant too! this way movie looks like director hasn't enough mental power to make one movie for each story and to go deep into each story ( that's hard!!!) so he mixed them together, putt Brad Pitt in main role and kick movie onto market. people will watch it but ask yourself who would see this movie without Brad Pitt in main role????? This movie totally grabs only a surface of each story and story connection is irrelevant so conclusion is: MOVIE IS SHALLOW AND IRRELEVANT .....BUT BIGGEST CRIME IS THAT MOVIE IS ...BORING! (unless you lived under a rock)
January 20, 2007 at 03:33 PM
most likely, the reason they are in morrocco isnt because they were vacationioning. brad pitts character said he ran in one of the scenes and from their awkward, unpredictable behaviour at the desert cafe and their seemingly distant relationship is a result of him running away at a soon after the time of their babies death. the time period switched back and forth to show all parts of the story. the phone call is the same phone call and that wasnt a twist, it was obvious from the very start that the kids were his. for the people who think this movie is shallow and superficial, maybe you are either looking to deep for a simple meaning, or you yourself are to shallow to see slight character developments and plot developments. the emotions are deep but the themes are simple. its all about communication.
January 21, 2007 at 06:35 AM
The one element that tied this whole movie together was that rifle, which i believe the Asian dude killed his wife with, the daughter probably wrote that in the letter to the detective. All the bad fortune was due to the rifle, even those kids were stranded in mexico because of it ( if thier mother didnt get shot they would have arrived home on time for the aunt to leave)
January 22, 2007 at 06:03 AM
The phone call that is repeated is in fact not the same in content. In the first call, Pitt tells the housekeeper that he cannot find someone to take the children, so she can't go the her son's wedding. He says to cancel the wedding, and he will pay for an even better one. This is what leads to the disasterouse trip to Mexico. In the second version of the same call--this time from the hospital where he has beent told that his wife is in precarious shape--he says that someone is "flying in" to care for the children. The obvious implication is that the housekeeper's story will take a very different course, a course that doesn't involve the children or a desparate journey back to San Diego. Why hasn't anyone noticed this?
January 24, 2007 at 01:54 AM
Steve, You are right the second phone call confuses the whole story by it's content. I agree. No one seems to notice the conversation.
January 24, 2007 at 07:07 PM
Ron and Steve, Amelia receives TWO phone calls from Brad. We see both from the 'mexico' point of view. The first, brad says his sister (?) is flying in, so she can go, 'she's doing alright', and 'don't tell the kids' (presumably he means don't tell the kids Mum has been shot?) and then talks to the son about the Crab. In the second he calls to tell her that she can't go as he can't get anyone to sit. That's when she decides to take the kids with her. It is the first one, about the sister flying in soon that we see from Brad Pitt's side.
January 26, 2007 at 11:36 PM
Much about this film I found compelling, particularly the minor (by that I mean relatively unknown) actors. All of the actors in the Morocco portion of the film were exceptional, with the exception of Pitt and Blanchett. Also the Japan sequences and cast were relatively well done, however they were indulgently much too long to convey the story. Less interestion to me were the Mexico scenes, they seemed too unbelievable, and what was the purpose of having the nanny toying with having a brief fling at the wedding? Where the movei fell down for me was forcing me to wait SO LONG for the expected connection to appear between what is essentially three independent movies, that really don't need to have a connection with each other to be interestiong. Actually, I think they SHOULD have been three separate movies, the attempt to link them, and how trivial the connection really is, dooms the overall for me. The "connections" are merely coincidental. If the connections had been the result of pre-meditaded actions i.e. the rifle was knowingly sold by the hunter to a terrorist, etc. then maybe I could have compassion for the "what if he haden't" scenario. As it is, as a story it's just about sometimes strange turns of events impact other peoples lives in far away places. To me that is not all that compelling, I get that in the newspaper every day. This film is a paradog, there is so much in it that is very, very good, but as a story it just is not that great for me.
January 27, 2007 at 12:37 AM
THe last phone call was the last straw. It makes no sense and makes the movie a joke. Maybe it is supposed to portray miscommunication but to me it made the movie incomprehensible in time and space and pointless. Did the Nanny's journey begin after Mom is on her death bed in the hospital ?
January 28, 2007 at 04:55 AM
Lance, You've got it backwards. The second call says that "Rachel" will be coming to take care of the kids. In the first call he told her she couldn't go and that he would pay for a wedding much better than the one that was planned if only she'd stay with the kidsl The second call only makes sense if you think there are alternate endings depending on which call was acted upon. If the first call is the real one, the story, as it unfolded took place. If the second call is the real one then the episode in Mexico never took place and the kids were never stranded in the desert. Am unclear with which call, if either, ever took place. P
February 04, 2007 at 01:16 AM
hey there. I'm from Moscow, and was charmed by the movie. Rifle -- a symbol of what weapon does when used unwisely. Iraq? Gaza? Where the US is selling/using its ammo? CNN stupidity and being diased -- I often find the way US mass media deliver nes about Russia hard to swallow as they are way away from the truth. Second call -- the nanny is about to be deported but certainly she can prolong her stay by hiring a lawyer. Bradd Pitt calms her down saying his relative will look after children. Perfectly logical to me. What interests me most is the way americans fail to see obvious though implicit meanings in the film as if averting their eyes from the truth. Truth hurts? And Morrocco is a good destination by the by. For those able to cogitate and see below the surface watch a Russian film "OSTROV" - "ISLAND" (2006, directed by LUNGIN ) it'll make you think.
February 04, 2007 at 01:18 AM
sorry about wrong spelling "biased" and "news"
February 07, 2007 at 07:10 AM
The movie is a decent watch, but it falters at many places. the director is trying to show too many things at the same time and is not able to bind them together completely. One still wonders the rold of Cheiko in the whole stroy, even though her story itself is compelling enough, but it does not fit into the entire picture. I agree that the movie parts are better than the whole.
February 07, 2007 at 04:05 PM
I found the movie depressing and frustrating but thought-provoking. It shows the harsh reality of life, regardless of one's race, culture and language. It would have ended beautifully if the characters were redeemed and justified. It left me wondering what happened to Santiago, the intoxicated Mexican, who caused nightmare to Amelia, and to Chieko's letter (whether it is about her mom's death or what, i don't know!). It ran for almost 3 hour and yet the story is still hanging and unfinished. One thing is clear though--in this day and age communication is still a huge barrier for us. It is frustrating not to be understood and interpreted the way we want to.
February 07, 2007 at 04:07 PM
*3 hours I mean
February 08, 2007 at 09:10 PM
The copy projected in my country, Argentina, did not include the contents of the letter from Chieko to the policeman. Perhaps I should have deducted these contents, but I didn't. I guess it could also include an explanation to her lie about how her mother died. Can somebody help me? It should have been pretty shocking to the policeman from his reaction upon reading it.
February 11, 2007 at 04:43 PM
The note is a confession that she shot her mum.
February 12, 2007 at 05:40 AM
I thought that Chieko's note to the policeman was a suicide note, and she was going to jump off the balcony. That is until her father arrived home just in time.
February 12, 2007 at 06:56 AM
For those of you who can't remember the plot of a three hour movie: It's the same phone call!!!!!! He makes a phone call the night before the wedding (the same call from Brad's point of view at the end) And ANOTHER phone call the day of telling her there is no one to watch the kids and she can't go.
February 13, 2007 at 08:03 PM
Some of the above comments are really disheartening to me. Everyone has their own tastes, but the fact that some could so completely miss all the subtle character developments (which I believe some are confusing with character arcs) and fail to connect emotionally with any of the stories shows how numb we are becoming to life in general. And if you didn't care for the film, fine. But, there's no reason to call it "fraudulent art" (are you saying it was an exact copy of another or was created by someone other than credited) or any of the other attempts to make yourself feel superior by discrediting people who are actually trying to create thought-provoking cinema instead of "Norbit" or another Hannibal. Yes, there were flaws in Babel, but there were also inspired moments and some amazing performances. The kids in particular...wow, I don't think I've ever seen such solid performances by such young actors. The story in Japan was also quite amazing, though I was left guessing in the end what the note said.
February 15, 2007 at 11:16 AM
Honestly, the movie may have had its ups and downs to many in this forum, but i found it to be quite a good show. Im a script writer myself and find the scripts, though not much of it, to be well done. The idea behind the movie (the linking of 4 stories),and the tendency of the movie to play with your thoughts were great. The phone calls from the hospital. it was the same call, to my understanding. It was the first call that Brad pitt gave to the nanny saying that she can go, rachel will come to baby sit and all. The 2nd call was the next day when he says that she cant go. My only question is that the authorities in the scene with the nanny, asking her to take a voulantary deprting back to mexico, the officer says that he spoke with the father in morocco. How? how did he get in contact with Brad Pitt? and furthermore, why didnt brad pitt clear the air as in who the nanny was and deal with her at home later? with regards to japan, i too feel that she killed her mother and the father has been covering up. and the note to the officer in the end was a confession. well anyways, this is just mu comments. Tke care and have a great day ahead.
February 18, 2007 at 06:23 AM
Hated the hand held camera, gave me terrible motion sickness... My impression on the calls: Brad calls the nigth before to tell nanny that someone is flying in, next call is the next morning, that no one is coming. Had to leave after 1 hr and could not see ending call. Arghh!
February 21, 2007 at 04:15 PM
To the person who didnt think the Japanese story fit in with the other two, Symbolism plays a major part. all the stories have 1 thing in common. Isolation..... The desert in Morocco, The desert on Mexico/USA border.....In Japan, the desert is substituted by the communication barrier not being able to communicate effectively with anyone.....hence isolation. Pretty effective by the director I must say!
February 23, 2007 at 03:50 PM
I liked this film. Although I agree and recognize the mechanization and contrivance issues raised by others (isn't this almost always a problem in story-telling -- that things happen in a particular equation-like manner with no visible flexibility to make a point?)it struck me that the overall success this film achieved in manufacturing significant and meaningful themes was worth the usual accidents of choice. Overall, I was most impressed by the Japanese segments and the clever use of alternating audible calamity and thunderous silence (the use of low hum during those segments was very insightful). The film gets in, as close as seems possible, to Kikuchi's character. I imagine in years to come her performance and this part of the film will be used as an example of virtuoso characterization for students and beginning directors. This is a good film and I hope many people take the time to watch it several times.
February 24, 2007 at 05:46 AM
All your Babel comments are really interesting. I wonder if someone could help me with a plot question. What happened to the two white kids left in the desert? Did they survive? I was confused at the end (sorry), although I did get it that the nanny was being deported. There were no subtitles at all on the dvd I watched. Thanks for the help.
February 24, 2007 at 08:44 AM
The kids were found alive. The immigration officer tells her that in the interview shortly after she is found and brought back to their headquarters. He tells her that "it is a miracle that the two children were found" and that "kids die trying to cross the border each day." As for all of the other people out there who can't comprehend a movie, the phone call at the end was the same call that was shown in the beginning. There were a total of two calls and one of them was shown twice. The only difference between the call that was shown twice was that it was shown from Brad Pitt's point of view the second time, not the nanny's. The movie is a hyperlink film, which means that there are often different characters, from different parts of the world, who are from different cultures. The plot in a hyperlink film is not necessarily shown in chronological order. When Brad Pitt is talking to the nanny about letting her go to her son's wedding in the beginning of the movie, the wife had already been shot. We see that same scene in the end.
February 24, 2007 at 12:07 PM
Why did the director choose Morocco as the vacation destination. Does he want to prove something that people there regardless of age have no mercy? Is it possible for the kids to play with a rifle? Is it ordinary or common to use a rifle in Morocco? Is it also common for the investigating officers to torture the old couple? What a shame? Is this their social values? Is it common or necessary for the police officers to gunfire the father and kids? I think Muslim people care each other. But the police officers are terrible! In my opinion, the movie is trying to portray different life styles but the three stories have no connection at all. In Japan, suicide is common and is not surprising anymore. Children and teenagers are not that close to their parents and family get-together is not practiced due to the kind of lifestyle the Japanese people do have. Parents, especially the father is busy and has no time to talk to his kids. As you can see the father and daughter were not very close from the beginning but to give the audience the feel as a father and daughter, the father realized that he should not leave her daughter that helpless. She is mute, and has hard time having a boyfriend. So the movie portrays the different life in each country. The Moroccan family is not rich but they love each other. The Japanese family is rich but they don't communicate their feelings to each other well. The Mexicans have strong family ties and love parties. Americans like to travel when they are depressed. Sad to say that Brad Pitt chose Morocco. Why didn't he choose Japan or Mexico then? Brad Pitt's children are not important in the movie. The illegal stay of the Nanny is what is being emphazised. The movie was just heart consuming. No lesson at all. I was worrying the whole time while watching the movie and waiting for a happy ending. I thought Brad Pitt's family will be together happily in the end. And the Mexican Nanny will go back to Mexico and start to live Mexican life. She was begging to go back to America even though she has no supporting documents. Indeed without Brad Pitt, the movie is nothing.
February 25, 2007 at 02:35 AM
I agree that the parts are better than the whole and that the kids stole the show. The most implausible part for me was the boys' decision to start shooting at vehicles.
February 26, 2007 at 05:54 AM
The weirdest part of the entire movie was when Kate Blanchett was needing to use the bedpan and then she and Brad Pitt share a passionate kiss. What was THAT about?
March 02, 2007 at 12:03 AM
The fact that Babel was not selected as a winner in any category (except musicimpressive? Not! And it didnt deserve that either.) is a complete vindication of my comments made way back in Nov. 2006. The academy has spokenBabel had no chance of winning ever. Its nomination was purely obligatory PC tush smacking. Now Pans Labyrinth? Run dont walk to see that filmabsolute film genius and orginality. I would pay double to see that wonderful poem of a film again.
March 02, 2007 at 09:23 PM
Ok, Read all the comments. The comment posted by "jason" feb 13th- Totaly agree with you. I understand many people prefer conventional hollywood cinema, but it is sad to see so many people failed to grasp any of the thought provoking concepts. I'm also surprised to see that many found the part about the mexican maid unbeliveable. Someone commented that santiago shot a gun at the wedding as a refrence to an untrustworthy character, the thing is in mexico, expecially among the lower class it is comon to shoot into the air for celebration, somewhat like the hillbillies over in the US. In certain areas on new years you can hear several gunshots. And the problem with the maid wasn't exactly that she had no documentation, she probably had a tourist visa, but she had no working permits and thats why she was going to be kicked out. The whole mexico scene, though i am disapointed that movies always seem to portray only the lower classes of mexicans, or "nacos" as they call them, The image they gave was perfectly beliveable. As for mexican maids in the US, I grew up in La Jolla in San Diego County, and the truth is that there are alot of parents who dont always have alot of time for their children and have hired help who has lived with them for several years, and they do leave the kids with the maid alot. It happens with couples that have lost a child that they forget about the children left living, so their trip to the north of africa seems realistic. Aparently they wernt just in morroco though, they were traveling from Tunez to Morroco when kate blanchet got shot. And Morroco, really is an exotic and rather popular tourist destination, more for europeans though. So i didnt find it to strange that they went there, Besides the crude and real rural living, there are also big resorts, golf, spas. Now the over all movie, I happen to agree that its about comunication and isolation, I even found it crude and realistic the sexual exploration of the children in morroco, who living in isolation without contact with other kids they began to see each other in incestful ways. Another theme I'm surprised no one really caught on to is police brutality. I mean the militarised police in morroco had absolutely no respecto for the life of the poor, and the police at the san diego border completely badgered santiago and scared him into commiting a much larger mistake than than the drunk driving he was afraid they would catch onto. And its true, the movie isn't neatly cut, and some details are left open to interpretation, but with a little imagination that makes the movie last even longer in your mind considering the posibilities. As for Cheiko, I think her letter was a suicide note, I don't think she shot the mom, Suicide is a considerable problem in japan. The mother having to deal with her daughter's handicaps probably got depressed and ended her own life, and considering the depression cheiko was going through trying to fill her emotional problems with sex, It seems to me she was very ready to jump off the building. As for the much talked about phone call, I think the first phone call and the one shown at the end were the same, That idea about alternate endings seems interesting, but i don't think that was the intention because there would be other things to suggest it. Oh and from what i read of your comments i must say it was a mistake to put brad pitt and kate blanchet in the movie because it aparently left many of you with the idea that the movie was supposed to be solely about their characters. Please people, lets not fall into that stereoptype of the "ugly american" (ironical because in the book the ugly american is actually the more conscious one) who can't relate to anything outside their country and doesnt care as to what is going on beyond our backyard, so many countries have that image of us. I mean this movie really flaunts that message in our face, amazing thatso many of you should not only fail to grasp that but respond with just that attitude.
March 03, 2007 at 12:38 AM
I no longer have the dvd so can't check, but I think the first call to the Nanny insists that she must not go to the wedding, the second call is the one that says she can go because Rachel is flying in, so the 2 calls are not the same in content. There was much about that movie that was implausible. I understand the need for "willful suspension of disbelief" when one approaches fiction, but there has to be some integrity to the premise(s) or the thing fails. This failed. The only plausible premise is that all over the world you will find some people who are terribly stupid, lacking in judgment, impetuous, unkind, brutal and selfish. Those who are not, like the bus driver (I think he was the driver) who stayed with the American and refused his money, the Japanese cop who declined the teen's sexual advances, are rare.
March 03, 2007 at 01:42 AM
the scenes were enjoyable to watch mainly due to scenery and the curiosity of seeing such foreign lands. I liked the movie but felt unfulfilled with the ending. What did the note say that Chieko gave to the police officer? I must admit, it made no sense for a couple like Brad Pitt and Cate B. to travel to Morocco...it's not a popular tourist spot for Americans. There were many inconsistencies but nonetheless it was worth a rental, not 20$ tickets to the theater.
March 04, 2007 at 04:01 AM
The time line was very confusing, but the way I understand it the first phone call, which was shown by the Nanny talking and then the little boy talking to his dad and describing the hermit crab etc was the phone call shown at the end from the Dad (Brad Pitt)'s point of view. The second phone call was shown when the Nanny was awakened and told that she would have to stay with the children as there wasn't anyone available; therefore the mother had been shot, and was at the hospital about to have surgery the evening before the wedding. I would have liked to know what was in Chieko's "note". The concensus in our group was that she was going to commit suicide, but did she kill her mother and her father is covering or was it just her difficulty adjusting to the mother's suicide?
March 04, 2007 at 10:00 PM
I just watched the movie and found it enthralling; however, have a completely different take on Chieko's note. I wondered due to her first reference to her father's not "paying attention to her anymore," and her obvious desire for male sexual attention, if the reason her mother committed suicide was because of a sexual relationship between Chieko and her father, and that her note to the police man was, in effect, a confession of that relationship.
March 05, 2007 at 04:03 AM
I can't say this was the light and uplifting movie I was hoping to see, but I did think it was a strong movie of huge sensitivity. Here at home we have differing views - one of us sees the senseless use of weapons and the inability of people to communicate even when they do actually understanding the language (folks there aren't any subtitles - that's the point!). The other sees the inability of any of the characters to take any responsibility for either themselves, their actions or anything around them. Wasn't the tower of Babel story about folks being so busy about building a tower to reach heaven - being so proud and setting themselves as equal to God - that they were punished by having their common language taken away so they could no longer understand each other? The characters in this movie certainly didn't start off understanding each other, and only some of them developed any understanding by the end. I applaud those of you who picked up on Chieko's mother's suicide - I'd love to know what the pointers were for this? I missed it completely - we had decided that Chieko was a child bride - utterly frustrated and depressed with her lot!!!! Any movie that can provoke discussion to this degree - including the range of frustration and irritation - has to be doing something right!
March 05, 2007 at 08:10 AM
how could a movie just end like that? did he get tired of thinking of a way to tie these simple stories together? i can see where he was going with the choices you make affecting many things. but, he gave up. it could have been a great movie.
March 06, 2007 at 01:57 PM
I felt this thread of movie reviews to be completely unprovacative and filled with the kind of pretentious attitudes that stear people clear of trying to find informed opinions. I think most of you guys should stick to short T.V. series such as "The Beach Combers" so as not to be to confused by a real message. The point of the link being only the gun is not meant to show a coincidence theme, but just what the movie is circulating around. Your not supposed to find some extremely suspensful hidden connection at the end, its trying to depict different scenarios that go on in life. The genius of the film is how it can deliver such a plain and simple story, one that is believable and can actually happen, while at the same time delivering a meaningful message while being entertaining. I think it delivered in all of these areas, some people are looking to hard or trying to judge a film by some pretense of their own. Most of you simply aren't asking the right questions of the movie and are dissapointed with the answers you recieve. It's really easy to pick a movie like this apart as it falls into such a rare genre and doesn't fit the norm of what people expect. Instead of griping about getting your money back, just ask for it back next time, both the theatres and movie shops I frequent offer refunds if I didn't enjoy something, let it end there. I could go into a forum about Talledega Nights and complain about how I didn't feel the relationship between the son and the father held true meaning, and that the story was not believable but then that begs the question; was that what the director was trying to achieve? If you didn't enjoy it that's fine, but don't try to put it into some box is was never intended to fit, just move on and go see something more to your personal tastes. I thought this movie was excellent, if you enjoy a good drama about realistic human emotion and communication then this ones for you. The story is a vessel that is used to carry out a character driven performance, but by no means the story is not the reason to see the film, nor was it the focus of the director. Everything here hinges on the idea of humans being put into extrordinarily tough circumstances and the emotions and choices that then follow. Most of the scenarios are not probable, but they are possible. If I had to choose a point to dislike it would be that its very coincidental that all the people involved with the gun were having such severely bad things happen to them all at once, but then it would be a very good movie if it skipped to a japan sequence for instance, and there was nothing happening at all. The point is to make you think, if it didn't provoke at least some thought of the choices a person might make in those circumstances, you need to stick to more simple minded features.
Melinda du Toit
March 10, 2007 at 08:25 PM
I thought it was great - thought provoking, crude and very real. If ther is a message it is the meaning of the Butterfly Effect! Everything in life is interconnected - Even if you don't believe in it - it still is. We are responsible to one another. What I do today will reap consequences oneday .... somewhere .......
March 11, 2007 at 11:23 AM
Cheiko's father said that she had been the first to find the mother. It is possible that that gun, fired by Cheiko, went off by mistake. I believe that Cheiko shot her mother because I am judging from the look on the police officer's face. Following that line of logic, I believe the officer chooses not to "alert the media", as it were, out of compassion for someone that is so clearly suffering, as well as his words to the father that "we will not bother you about that anymore". Cheiko would not have written so long a letter to the policeman if it were "just" a suicide note, surely? Surely there was something to tell. And why would the father make a point of taking the very gun that shot his wife out "hunting" in Morocco, and make another point of giving it away unless he was either (1) afraid that his daughter would use the rifle on herself or (2) covering up for his daughter. And why does Cheiko say to the policeman that her father jumped off the balcony? Why lie to him? And when the policeman tells the father that this is what Cheiko has said to him does the father not immediately think to himself, "Oh crud, is my daughter going to jump????", if suicide is such a big problem in Japan? This reminds me of the talk about whatever it was that Bill Murray's character whispered to Scarlett Johanssen's character at the end of Lost in Translation. And what *did* he say, by the way???
March 11, 2007 at 11:24 AM
I mean: her MOTHER jumped - not her father. Sorry.
March 12, 2007 at 07:04 PM
Though I could be mistaken, the director intentionally changes the conversation between the nanny and Pitt's character. Those saying there were two different calls are incorrect. There was one call shown (though obviously she had spoken with him prior to the "filmed" phone call). The conversation is from the same call, only it has changed to allow for the possibility of a different story. One of the great themes of and vehicles for the film is that of the question of action v. chance and how the two can be blurred. It is emphasized throughout the film and highlighted by the seemingly random "magic" shots (the crystal ball, the boat in the desert, etc.). Could be wrong, but that was my take on the whole thing. Regardless, to those of you who are hostile toward others' questions about the film: chill, show some respect, and get a life.
March 12, 2007 at 09:21 PM
I THINK THAT MOVIES ARE LIKE PAITINGS. ONLY THE DIRECTOR OR ARTIST KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THEY MEAN. WE CAN ONLY GET A MESSAGE.
March 13, 2007 at 06:04 AM
I didn't think I would enjoy Babel but I got so caught up in it. Two big problems: 1) From the hill where the young boys were with the rifle and the approaching bus, it would have been impossible for the shot to enter the right side of the bus! The couple was sitting on the right side of the bus. Did anyone catch that? 2) When the nanny and the children woke up and the nanny was running around looking for her nephew (I believe he was her nephew?)you could see an interstate and cars. Then, the next minute, it shows the three of them heading straight into the desert. Who screwed up here? I enjoyed the different cultures and the depth at which some of these stories were told. Oh, I totally agree with the phone calls. I believe it was Diane. It was the same call. Remember the little boy kept saying, "Are you okay? Are you crying?" I felt chills when Brad says the same things as in the other call. The wedding definitely took place after the final scene in the hospital. I'm sure some will disagree but that's what made it a great movie!
March 18, 2007 at 08:59 PM
Three different world, The Babel: America, Marrocos and Japan. The acts and effects? How do they raze their children ? What are the cultural differences? How the police works in each country? And Prejudice, food and teenage sexual life. This film is art !! The rifle and its effects, The butterfly effect, good shot Melinda du Toit ! The kids stay more time with the Nanny stead of their dad; The boys stay alone with a rifle in the dessert with no adult care; The girl stays alone despite loosing her mother by suicide; The police in the American border("no prejudice") x The "polite" Marrocos police x The Japan 1st World police. Cuscuz (tajine) with diet Coke ? Sorry, Brad Pitt and Cate B, it makes no sense.It's better with tea. The way the Mexicans prepare a chicken to eat, very cultural. The teenage in Marrocos having his first interest in sex, while Chieko a teen in Japan is also discovering her sexuality. Good film !
March 18, 2007 at 09:34 PM
Thankfully, our DVD had subtitles but still no translation of Japanese note. It seems to me that the ending of this movie is Key to understanding the connections between the characters and without knowing what the note said, is frustrating. It seems manipulitive to me, it smacks of authorial intent/intrusion. When we didn't get translation of that very important note, we felt the author/director's heavy hand and that took us out of the very gripping "moment". Still, one of the best films I've ever seen. And maybe Amelia had a little fling with the old friend in Mexico so that we the audience felt some hope for her to still have a life. Of all the characters suffering near-death, Amelia is the only one who truly "lost her life".
March 19, 2007 at 05:05 AM
I wondered if the apparent phone call discrepancy could be a reference to the problem of memory as a communication barrier - the father remembers no part of his insistence that Amelia stay with the kids, and Amelia remembers it as a direct order from her boss, the truth being somewhere in between. What is left unresolved in the movie represents that part of real life. We never get the full story, not even the court jury gets that. We're inevitably left speculating. I think the themes of isolation and communication barriers are meant to leave the viewer "frustrated."
March 19, 2007 at 04:21 PM
Your review is horrible. You didn't pay attention to the movie. Pitt and Blanchett are not on vacation. Pitt ran off to Morocco after the baby died -- whether he used work as an excuse or just left, it doesn't say, but Blanchett was there to visit him and get him to come home. That's why there's so much tension between them at the beginning. You also apparently missed the fact that each plot is on a different timeline. Both the Mexico and Japan plots are days ahead of the Morocco plot. That's why Pitt and Blanchett are not back in time for Amelia's son's wedding. Blanchett is shot and in the hospital, which has delayed their return. As for Pitt's "ugly Americanism," I think you missed the entire point of that scene. There was nothing American about it. Pitt was yelling obscenities and at the tour guide and anyone else in the area out of grief and worry that his wife was about to die. Then when he offered money to the guide at the end, it was out of gratitude, not as a way to clear his conscience.
March 28, 2007 at 06:55 PM
To everyone who thinks the phone call from the hospital was different from the earlier one(s): you really need to re-watch the first part of the movie. It is an exact, word-for-word repeat of the first (of two) phone call to the nanny. When I was watching the repeat of that phone call, from Pitt's perspective, I wondered why the director was showing it in its entirety. But then Pitt's character began to sob which brought an additional dimension to the conversation; a dimension that was only hinted at when, at the start of the movie, we saw the *same* phone call from his son's perspective. Basically, in that part of the timeline, Susan, the mother, was in the hospital and possibly out of surgery. The day after that, for whatever reason, Susan's sister, Rachel, couldn't make it to watch the kids. So the father had to phone the nanny to tell her that she would have to miss her son's wedding. No explanation was made for why Rachel couldn't make it.
March 29, 2007 at 05:36 PM
I've seen this movie during my assignment.Its difficult to understand the storyline once.The ending were ambigous.We didnt really know what happend to all of the characters.Only the director knows what he's trying to show in his film...
April 01, 2007 at 04:40 AM
It is not that difficult to understand the plot, you just have to pay attention and THINK. Why is it that so many people these days have difficulty watching movies that require thinking, its not that hard. The phone calls in the begining and the end are obviously the same phone call. Like most of you guys said, the first phone call was from the kid's side, and the last phone call was from Pitt's side, both depicting the same phone call. As you can see, both conversations were about the hermit crab, isn't that an obvious hint? That other phone call ( the second phone call) which occured the next day, was Pitt calling to say that Rachel can't make it so the nanny can't go to the wedding.
April 01, 2007 at 05:06 AM
The mexico wedding happened after the second phone call. So the end of the movie with Pitt on the phone happened the same time as the begining of the movie.
April 08, 2007 at 09:18 AM
A partial translation of Chieko's note, from wikipedia: The detective stops at a bar to read Chieko's note. Within the film, the note's contents are never revealed. However, part of it is momentarily visible to the viewer. The following is an approximate translation of the Kanji script beginning with the first line of the lower half of the notebook page: (n.b., "[EDGE]" indicates the end of that particular line on the notebook page): ". . . I wanted [EDGE] . . . myself [EDGE] . . . that's why [EDGE] . . . connected [EDGE] . . . that is [EDGE] . . . although I cannot [EDGE] . . . I have to find out [EDGE] . . . message from my mother [EDGE] . . . I was not sure if I was loved by my mother [EDGE] . . . but that's not the case . . . [EDGE] thank you."
April 11, 2007 at 08:24 AM
I started getting pissed off towards the end of the film. I understood the phone calls were the same. I am an avid film watcher and reader and I "got" it. But not telling us what was in the note was cheap. To me it's the film equivalent of an artist hiding someones hands behind their back because he can't draw them; or a songwriter just fading a song away with the chorus because he can't figure out how to end it. I don't want to read an 800 page novel that doesn't end and I don't want to watch a three hour movie that leaves a major thread hanging. It is not provocative, it is lazy. "Oh, the viewer will decide what it means...." no, not really. That isn't the way the film is set up. The director sets the movie up with the unspoken promise to connect all the dots. The dots were not connected. Why not leave the kids in he desert and not tell us what happened? Why not have the last shot of the kids in Morrocco be of them hiding from the police. It is uneven to finish some stories and not others. It ruins the whole thing.
April 21, 2007 at 12:49 AM
Were the American kids found alive or left in the desert?
April 29, 2007 at 06:52 AM
It is obviously not a suicide note.. What cop would not go back after reading it, or alert someone. Wiki seems to jave the best explanation, if Eiki can be trusted. I also know that as terrible as the events were in this movie, they all seemed to be drawn out and subtle. I felt throughtout the movie that something bas was about to happen, but it never did, though there were parts. My point is, her killing her mother would just be too flat out point blank and not artistically subtle like the rest of the movie. She may have said the deal about the balcony because she was ashamed of a gunshot suicide.. whoever said the rifle was the suicide weapon... can't be.. it's pretty difficult to kill yourself with a rifle. with the whole underlying theme of not communicating... i think the note was a breakthrough for the japanese component. perhaps the kid confessing to the cops was that components breakthough.. the wife being shot.. remember the germophobe she was? Perhaps they began to communicate, and in fact i think they have a discussion about sids... I don't have any breakthrough remarks for the mexican plot though. PS, before reading the wikipedia explanation, i considered the note to be the mother's suicide note.
April 29, 2007 at 06:53 AM
and yes, i can't type.. haha
April 30, 2007 at 06:31 AM
this movie suked ass, if you are interested in event connection and time differentials, then watch pulp fiction, it you are interested in meaning, then watch kingdom of heaven. if you want both, watch debbie does dallas and say a prayer while you finish up because a perfect cinematic representation does not exist of what was attempted in this film, oh yeah, the japanese father shot his wife with the rifle, and then ditched it in morroco, he needed to get rid of the murder weapon, he thought by giving it to a rural goat herder the rifle would never come back to him, the fact that such an unexpected incident brought the rifle back to him is the only interesting part of the film, but this is completely flushed down the toilet by the fact that there is no ending to the story line at all, no accountability at all on behalf of the director. for real film art, refer to Midred Pierce, or Citizen Kane and ya, Crash was soooooooo much better, Babel sux, i would quit acting if i was in this film.
babel is the best movie ever
April 30, 2007 at 06:49 AM
babel is the best movie ever, the fone calls had me confused forever, but when i got it , ya, it just made sense, a japanese teenager met brad pitt when he ran away from his ugly kids , and he ripped the japanese ho's tonsils out so she could not talk, then the CIA sold weapons to 7 year old Mujahadeen fighters in afganistan in 1980 and they shot a bullet from a rifle that had magical powers and the bullet travelled through time ........ no, what happened was that the mexican nephew of the nanny had the magical handgun, he fired the shot days after debbie gibson was wounded in morroco, the bullet went back in time, and hit her in the collar bone, it turns out the little mujahadeen kids did not hit the bus, everyone is right, this movie says so much about stereotypes, wow so thought provoking, everyone assumes the little morrocan kids shot the wife of Pitt, but there were two weapons fired, racist jerks all of you!!!!!! I will never respect any movie award nominee or recipient ever again, they are bought and paid for like a japanese school girl, what i can't hear you? (if you can not tell that this is a mockery, you probably liked Babel, and you suck worse than the movie)
May 20, 2007 at 06:51 AM
Babel was one of the best movies I've seen in a while. I love the Gonzlez Irritu & Arriaga team from Amores Perros. There is obvious relations between the two movies. I understand there is a third movie 21 grams, but I have yet to see it. The movie was so great I got on the internet to read more about it. I didn't know the story of the Tower of Babel before but I can definately see the connection between the story and the film. Communication (or lack of) causes and amplifies problems. The best display of this I think is where the nanny is being harassed by the border patrol and also where the boys start laughing at Cheiko because she does not understand them. Yes, the stories were tied together coincidentally. But that is the intention. It is about little coincidences and actions that link us as human beings together regardless of age, sex, race, etc. The Japanese hunter who gave the rifle to a Moroccan goatherd who gave it to his friend to fend of jackals whose sons ended up (stupidly) shooting a bus who happened to have American tourists in it whose kids' nanny had to take them to Mexico in order to attend her sons wedding and got deported, it's all coincidental and all a beautifully woven story. There were many parts of the film where I wanted to bitchslap the characters or yell at them. But those parts doesn't make the story unbelievable. Just because the characters' actions are stupid doesn't mean it's improbable. We do stupid and selfish things all the time, there are always regrets. Brad Pitt's insensitivity to his nanny's son's wedding, the Moroccan kids' choice to shoot at a bus, the American Embassy's choice to stop the Moroccan ambulance so they could send a helicopter, the Japanese girls' incesant and awkward attempts for sexual attention, the Moroccan kids' choice to shoot at the officers, and a lot more, it's just what we as humans do. Great movie, I would recommend it to anyone.
May 20, 2007 at 03:09 PM
i think the note was her telling the cop that she just lied about the mom jumping off to commit suicide. Chieko killed her mom. realize how much her dad was trying to sell that to the cop at the end, ya he was what we call over-selling, for what reason???? He walked up to chieko after that happened and realized that happened but could not put his daughter in jail. Remember she has not been getting much if any positive attention from her dad. at the beginning, he acknowledged he has been shunning her a bit and told her something like im your father i love you always. when the cop read the note, it was a confession that she really killed her mom and that by the time he read it she would have already jumped off the balcony like she just described to him!! that s why he sat there with that look of why didnt he get it. then he took the shot. the dad was obviously covering something, the story was from the beginning, portraying him to be covering something up.....
May 20, 2007 at 03:15 PM
also when the dad got home he pretty much felt out the situation before he got up to the room. he knew that since the cop just talked to her that she is up there probably going crazy. we walked up there and out the balcony and slowly, understandably, grabbed his daughters hand!!! not in any questionable state?? how would a normal dad react to his daughter being naked on the balcony edge in a look of i hate myself!!! man im good!!!!!!
Fernando Linares MD.
May 25, 2007 at 03:51 PM
After seen BABEL, and re-thinking about it, I look the story as too pretencious. Events presented in the movie are possible, but I think that Irritu (up to date) hasn`t reached a defined narrative style,properly adecuated to the triad of stories usually crossed within each other. He likes to emotionally impact to the viewer, including leaving uncompleted information. Like the letter that the japanese teenager leaves to the policeman. Its remind me "Lost in traslation", in the words (not known by the wiewer) that Bills Murray says to Scarlet Johansson.Its for leaving something not clossed in the plot?, its for viewer curiosity?.Irritu shows the world as it is , unfriendly, aggresive and with absence of compassion. Characters acts moved by anxiety. For that reason behaves unproperly, leaving an internal road to guilty. The experience of derealization is felt in several scenes for the characters. The director wants to show us a strange and mad world. In this kind of world (made by us), we have only our personal frame of view, loosing a broad sight and living nearly to social autism.Characters leave its autism, only in limits circumtances. Beyond the merits of the film, Babel is an exercise for reflection, the less frecuented way of being-in-the-world.
June 03, 2007 at 01:48 AM
A friend of mine at work recommended this movie when we were discussing "Crash", which is my all-time favorite. So I rented Babel and sat through it for two and a half hours. Initially I found parts of it quite amusing, especially the scenes in Japan where the handicapped teenager worries about her image in the eyes of the others and tries for social acceptance. I think what amused me the most is the simultaneous seriousness and futility of her efforts and the realization that we all were at that stage at one point in our lives. As for the rest of the movie, I don't have much to say. While I would certainly watch Babel over any other blunt, commercially-made, mainstream entertainment move, I didn't feel that it measured up to Crash. Another friend of mine made this comment "Babel was ok, but what did it really say? What was the point?" I'm inclined to agree with her. If the entire point of Babel was to show cultural differences across the globe, it's not really saying anything new to anyone who has taken Sociology 101. Moving back and forth between several (unsynchronized )plot lines is a technique that can get old and wears out the audience's patience if its effect is to keep viewers guessing where the story is going for almost two hours. The producers could have done more if they had focused on points where cultures come into contact with one another as, for instance, in the scene at US border. As it stands, exploring cultures internally, and placing them side by side for comparison, Babel does not do enough to address multicultural issues such as communication difficulties.
June 05, 2007 at 11:00 PM
There is no question that this movie is fairly depressing. The ending leaves you very sad, and this must have a message. The question is what is the meaning behind the two childrens disappearance/death in the desert (not clear what happens to them) at the end of the movie. My interpretation of the very strong message that this movie is conveying is that even if you are mortally wounded in a very far and isolated place, if you happen to be an American (in this case a white male), you can bring to bear all of resources of the American government to save your life (in this case the life of his wife). However, if you are a Mexican illegal alien, even if your are in U.S. soil, no one is even going to listen or believe to you in a desperate situation where the life of other people (in this case two young American citizens) are in mortal danger. I really believe that this is at least one messages that the director and writer were trying to convey with this very thoughtful movie. Thus, the movie is basically making a point about racism and the very different value that the American government places in the life of an American versus a non-American person. The whole plot of the movie is to set-up in a more or less credible way the situation to send this powerful and what I believe to be a true message about the attitude of our government towards other people in the world.
June 16, 2007 at 01:02 PM
It looked to me like the wrong side of the bus is shot! Susan is on the driver's side. The boys shoot the bus as it is coming towards them; Susan would be on the away side, it seems to me. Does anyone else see this? I saw parallels between the MOroccan police and the US BOrder Patrol. In many ways, this is a subversive movie!
July 04, 2007 at 09:08 PM
what the movies says is: maroccans=cold hearth,terrorist,assasins,irresponsabile mexicans=drunks,irresponsabile,stupid,crossborders japaneses=elitist, whores, shallow and pop cultured americans= the victims, as always
August 18, 2007 at 08:48 AM
This is perhaps the most balanced review of Babel I've come across. Like some of the responders above me, however, I feel that your criticism of the plot as being somewhat contrived is itself rather contrived. 1) The audience does not know how long it has been since the third child has died. To assume that they put the kid in the ground and bought their plane tickets next day is both foolish and unfair to the film. That Pitt had time to "run," return to his family, make amends, and plan an escape with his wife who stubbornly refused to "forgive [him]" indicates that a rather long interval has passed since the death. Therefore, a trip to Morocco is plausible. Why Morocco? Well, that question appeared in the film. Why do we do anything perhaps foolish, especially when we've just encountered a tragedy in our lives. Perhaps some of the other scenes and characters in this film will help you rationalize Pitt's answer to the question: "Why Morocco?" 2) Another post already dealt with the plausibility of leaving the children with a nanny in LA, as well as with the impromptu nature of Mexican weddings. 3) "Babel fails because it tries to acknowledge the complexity of life and to construct a film that embraces so much of that complexity without simplifying." To be blunt, this is an absurd statement. The entire film is a masterful simplification of three complex and parallel plots--brilliant editing--and it still eloquently, honestly, even patiently portrays in 100+ minutes all of what you list in your next sentence: "prejudice, racism, stereotyping, isolation, as well as divisions by country, gender, age." I fail to see your "failure." 4) Why do you object to Pitt's erratic actions and moods when sitting with his wounded wife in a bacterial haven? Yes, one second he is sharing pictures of his children, in the next he explodes in the face of the same man he shared them with--not because the writers suddenly forgot about his sudden charm but because that's what human beings DO in stressful situations. "Are these things meant to tie into the theme about the difficulty of communicating? Are we meant to excuse Pitts behavior because his wife has been shot?" These "things" tie into the theme about human nature, that we are capable of both profound goodness and the most ignominious disgrace. We are not meant to excuse Pitt's behavior, for a director requires no excusing from his audience, but one might expect an audience to grasp the emotional turmoil of Pitt's character at that time. 4) Pitt's insistent demands that the nanny stay with the kids are plausible because of what he just experienced. For hours he has been plowing through international red tape for a mere ambulance; he's begun to distrust all those around him. So when the nanny he's known for years suddenly tells him she needs to go to a wedding and doesn't know what to do with the kids, how is he supposed to react? He said that he "needs her to do this." It was a not a directive, it was an expression of what he, as a human being in a terrible situation, needed from someone he trusted at that time. 5) You argue that the restructuring of chronology leads to no fresh insights, but this is too simplistic. Chronology only seems to shift because the director is having to simultaneously tell stories that take place at different times without making his single, integrated film seem like three different ones. Chronology is not "restructured." There are simply three stories being told, all taking place at different times. The movie merely requires attention so that the audience might understand these time frames; the time frames themselves, however, have no great significance and should not be judged on their ability to provide "fresh insights." Despite these five points, I feel that you've written a wonderful review. You seem to have fully grasped the emotional and technical vigor of this film. I simply think you've taken your role as a critic too seriously and tried too hard to dig "contrivance" out of a very plausible and well-integrated plot.
August 30, 2007 at 08:39 PM
Thanks to all who have posted and especially to Travis for the well thought out comments. I'd really love for this blog to be a place for intelligent discussion--and disagreement--about film. It's also great to have someone disagree with me and not call me an idiot and ask for me to be fired. Thanks for making Babel a place for some of the most lively exchanges. People are also still posting to the review for The Prestige where new theories seem to pop up every few weeks.
September 01, 2007 at 07:11 AM
the problem with this movie was indeed the hollywood aspect. it did a good job of portraying how communication breakdown can lead to tragedy, but the nudity was totally unnecessary. we did not need to see a naked girl to know what was happening in the scene. we also did not need to see a ten or twelve year old masturbating. that did absolutely nothing with character development. other than that it was a decent movie, if a bit contrived.
December 05, 2007 at 10:50 PM
I only just saw this movie and it is perfect. I do need to say somewhere though that I am certain Wataya killed his wife with the rifle, and Chieko was silenced not only by her deafness but by her complicity in it. The deed appears to be completely dealt with until he receives the call from the police asking about the gun, and it will unravel completely after the film when the young policeman reads the note, in which Chieko is finally able to say all the things that she has been unable to express, and instead has been acting out.
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