Opening 21 Dec 2006
The film’s title refers to the biblical tower of Babel and the inability to communicate. Like other recent films, e.g., Crash, here many lives intertwine, this time globally. A Japanese man goes hunting in Morocco. He gives a rifle to his Moroccan guide. The guide, in turn, sells it to another man who gives it to his sons to protect the goats from jackals. The young boys shoot at a tourist bus and injure an American woman. She and her husband are forced to take shelter in a friendly but primitive Moroccan village to wait for an ambulance. Therefore, their return to San Diego is delayed and their Mexican babysitter fears to miss her son’s wedding in Mexico. She takes the two blond children over the border. Their return to California is complicated by the behaviour of her nephew who is drunk and driving, so that she and the children are suddenly out of the car and hiding in no-man’s borderland. In the end, two lives are changed irreversibly, one might be slightly improved, and the others miss permanent misfortune by sheer luck.
The film shows that communication is difficult in English, Arabic, Spanish, Japanese and sign language. Even those who speak the same language cannot communicate, while at the same time TV newsreels communicate too much. The Americans (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchette) come across as arrogant in their helplessness. Rinko Kukuchi as the Japanese teenager is a wonderful new face in Western cinema and Adriana Barraza gives an especially good performance as the Mexican woman, the character who most deserves our sympathy. Not to forget Gael García Bernal as the nephew. The story goes forwards and backwards, which can be confusing and it is too long. However, the message that no man is an island, and we are all on this planet together, comes across very well. This is part three of a trilogy by director Alejandro González Ińárritu who gave us Amores Perros and 21 Grams and for Babel he won first prize for best direction in Cannes 2006. (Becky Tan)