Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt, Elle Fanning, Gael García Bernal: Four major names from the cast of «Babel» directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu I have to drop before telling you about my randomly picked film of the week.
First of all the narration in this film strikes me as it is intertwined between a central event – the shooting of American tourist Susan (Cate Blanchett) during a bus tour with her husband Richard (Brad Pitt) in Morocco – and two linked story lines, one set in North/Central America and the other in Japan.
Deaf Japanese teenage girl Chieko Wataya (Rinko Kikuchi) sees the news of the bus shooting of an American tourist in Morocco –presumably by some terrorists – on TV and doesn’t know her dad sold the crime weapon, a precision gun with a 3.5 km reach, to some Moroccan shepherd, who’s kids fooled around with it and unintentionally hit Susan in the Tourist bus.
Through the TV screen the two stories, which have independent story lines become linked, even though only on the surface. A third side story, set in California and Baja California, Mexico, is attached to the two others through Richard’s phone call with his kid’s nanny Amelia (Adriana Barraza), forbidding her to attend the wedding of her son Santiago (Gael García Bernal) in Mexico. Nevertheless, Amelia decides to go and takes the American kids with her. The daughter Debbie is played by infant Elle Fanning.
Also striking is the music by Gustavo Santaolalla. His guitar tracks are atmospheric and produce a very emotional and touching score, which perfectly underlines the moving pictures shot in Morocco, Japan, Mexico and the United States (approx. i.o. of screen time).
The title «Babel» is drawn from the biblical story of Babylon and the common language spoken by the different people of the mythological city, as Iñárritu explains at the beginning of the Making-Of. Behind the screen, and probably of crucial help in arabic-speaking Morocco was the Palestinian actress and language coach Hiam Abbas. As she explains in the Making-Of, the distance between cultures imposes itself because of language barriers. In the case of the Berber grandmother, who lets injured Susan find refuge in her house, Abbas’ Palestinian Arabic wasn’t of any help.
Babel is a modern tail about globalization, cultural and linguistic barriers and “inner frontiers”, as Iñárritu says himself. By this he probably means stereotypical mindsets that forbid mutual understanding. In that sense the biblical reference to the tower of Babel works perfectly even in a globalized world. The multi-narration serves the same purpose: through mass media and telecommunication the central tragical event in Morocco connects the different story lines to each other.
Whilst watching the Making-Of on the Bonus-DVD», it becomes obvious why Iñárritu was given the award for Best Director at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. The tremendous efforts put in «Babel»by the director himself but also his cast and crew before, during and after the shoot of the film in four different countries with five languages spoken on and off set: Arabic, Berber, English, Japanese, Spanish… and last but not least a quite complicated and sophisticated script, written by Guillermo Arriaga makes this unique masterpiece complete.