Babel: A Confusion of Languages


The first of the four narratives follows a troubled American couple who find themselves fighting for their lives in the middle of a tragic incident while vacationing in the Muslim country of Morocco, where the local language and culture are a constant riddle. The paradox implied in the relationship between the characters portrayed by Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt is an example of a more intimate definition of miscommunication. “From the outside, they look like a couple who gets lost in the desert, when in reality, they are a lost couple who find one another in their loneliness,” says the director. Entwined with this shattering marital drama is the story of the two Morrocan children who accidentally endanger many lives and set off a chain of global events they could never have imagined. Theirs is a a more common mode of miscommunication, one of sibling rivalry that culminates in an inoccent choice gone wrong.

BabelThe story of the Moroccan children is meant to me more a tragedy about the moral breakdown of a highly spiritual Muslim family than a story about a boy being chased by the police. It is equally or more important to the father of the children that Yussef is peeping on his sister while she is undressing than the fact that they had shot at a bus. When values crumble nothing makes sense anymore; when a link is broken, it’s not just the link that breaks, but the whole chain. Another tale revolves around a Mexican nanny working amidst the wealth of California, who makes the fateful decision to bring two American children illegally across the border. Her story is a fable that sums up the situation of thousands of people who try to cross the U.S. border – a situation that emcompasses the frustrations of so many immigrants living abroad, their inability to fully communicate their desire for a better life. The final story focuses on a widowed father trying to emotionally connect with his deaf daughter in the middle of the intensely urban setting of Tokyo. This tale of a teenager who falls into sexual extremes as a way to fulfill her yearning for affection, expresses another side of language – the physical. Ultimately, González Iñárritu contends that the universal, visual language of film is one way that artists can break through the borders and miscommunications he explores in BABEL.

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