Uttered in at least five languages (Arabic, Spanish, English, Japanese Sign Language, and Japanese), this film plays with the stereotype that different languages are a problem. As we follow the stories of four families, one realizes the source of confusion is not “in” the language; rather, it is the challenge of interpreting language in the context of a given person’s life story.
The relationships and connections among members of these families range from the incidental to the intimate. “May I speak with you, sir?” inquires a police officer? “There’s been an incident.” “I have raised these children, fed them breakfast, lunch, and dinner their entire lives, can’t you tell me if they are alright?” “That’s none of your concern,” replies the immigration officer.
There are two threads linking these families, two factors that bind them together tight: violence and the law. More specifically, a rifle and the institution of law enforcement, with the manipulations of politics hovering in the background. Acts of innocence and practicality unfold in scenarios of accident and opportunism. Babel exposes the vise of circumstance and consequence: in Morocco suspects are brutalized by military police, in Japan interviews are civil and police officers humane, in the US physical violence is replaced by emotional and psychic violence: ” I guarantee that if you pursue legal action you will simply postpone the inevitable.”
The systematic (peaceful?) order of Japan and the US masks the random unpredictability of sudden death; the apparent chaos and wildness of Mexico and Morocco highlights the human urge to seek experience in order to feel alive. Help appears as a rare offering in either place.
Language difference has nothing to do with these dynamics. Indeed, in Babel, the fact of linguistic diversity enables core commonalities of human suffering and ambition to be revealed.

2 thoughts on “babel”

  1. I passed the exam. Yuuuuhuuuuuuu:)
    It was a pretty intense defence but they decided to pass me. I am happy.

  2. The Sangria Queen didn’t answer but Elodie did, reminding me to see the movies “21 Grams” and “Amores perros.” They both felt these films were better than Babel, but I wonder if the experience of quality has more to do with the sequence in which they are seen rather than sheer production values? Anyway, I’m now eager to view these other two, which deal with similar themes.

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