February 9, 2007


I saw the movie Babel (trailer) on BA on my way back from Mumbai recently. Unfortunately, thanks to the travails of traveling, I fell asleep mid-way and lost about half an hour of the movie. But it is no doubt a good powerful movie and worthy of the attention it is getting via various awards and nominations; though surprisingly Yahoo! Movies has overall ratings of B (critics) and B- (Yahoo! users). It won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Drama & been nominated for 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. It was also considered a top contender for the Palme d'Or at Cannes but did not win, though Inarritu did win the festival's best director prize.

You can read the review in the LA Times and Roeper's review in the Chicago-Sun Times but I recommend you go in and see it without reading any reviews.

Amitava Kumar blogged about Babel some time back, calling it a movie about 'our moment of globalization.' Today, he revisits the movie and links to a review by Michael Wood, who writes about how the movie is more than your typical hyperlink movie, with multiple plots all tieing in to reflect the global fabric we all are a part of but is more about 'the sense that we are always about to step into an aftermath we can’t imagine.'...

To me, the movie was about the universal difficulty human beings have in communication - words come out but no one wants to understand or cannot understand - and the tragic fallout of this disconnect. Michael Wood puts it much better than I can, writing:

The stories of Babel are not about the limits of language but about the limits of understanding.

Indeed! We are confronted with a multitude of languages and different mediums of communication and yet there is so much confusion due to people not understanding each other. In the middle of all the chaos, the interaction between Brad Pitt's character and the Moroccan man who helps him, is a lesson in how basic human instincts can guide us to a common understanding despite the differences. So, does the universality of the human condition allow us to overcome these obvious limitations in communication in a globally interconnected world or are they unsurmountable because we lack the desire to understand? The disconnected feeling of the deaf-dumb girl in Japan or the disconcerted pleas of the Mexican lady at the US border...

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. - G B Shaw

The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate. - Joseph Priestly

I had liked another movie, Crash, surprise winner of the best movie at the Oscars last year, much more but I really should not be comparing the two movies... esp. given the soporofic condition in which I saw Babel. Like Babel, Crash also talked about the interconnectedness of various people - although the scope was not global and everything happened within the confines of a city (Los Angeles), the message driven home was that we are all connected in ways we do not understand despite the prejudices, the stereotypes, and the hatred that divides us all..

A few years back, I had started seeing Inarritu's previous movie,
Amores Perros (Life's a Bitch), but I was not in the mood for a gory movie - so, after the initial dog-fight scene, the DVD was taken off. I have his other movie, 21 grams, also with multiple interweaving plotlines, and enjoyed it very much. I thought that Traffic was also an Inarritu movie but just found out it was by Steven Soderbergh. Anyways, Traffic remains one of those good must-see movies that I never get around to seeing despite seeing it in the shelves at the public library (for free viewing!) many times...

The other movie to see is the Penelope Cruz starring
Volver by the one and only Pedro Almodóvar. This movie has also gotten great reviews and all sorts of awards/nominations. Hmmm...too many good books to read, too many good movies to see, too little time, too little discipline...

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