Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Movie Review: Babel (mild spoiler alert).

“Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words.
“They said, ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’
“The LORD said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.

"’Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another's speech.’
“Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
(Genesis 11:1, 4, 6-7, 9; NASB.)

Drawing from this First Testament vignette, Babel's filmmakers skillfully weave together four primary stories told in five languages, across several continents and countries.

In this seeming cacophonous confusion, one universal language links them all: violence.

More specifically, the common denominator in all this disparate despair is a rifle. A powerful metaphor, this weapon unites and catalyzes the groups' differing tragedies--although the film's message is hardly anti-gun.

Unlike the multiple plot line approach ineffectually adopted in Fast Food Nation (see post dated November 29, 2006), auteurs Alejandro González Iñárritu (director) and Guillermo Arriaga (writer) don't linger in and don't abandon any one story for too long. The pacing works. Conversely, the film does not rely on action for its impact.

Babel educates and exposes much in a variety of cultures. For example, unlike any movie I can remember, it vicariously explores Babel-like confusion visited upon those without a spoken language. Perhaps the most disconnected character was not the American in Morroco trying to navigate through a tragedy far outside of his "comfort zone", but the Japanese young woman in her own culture, who was disconnected by an absence of hearing and spoken words.

Babel earns an "A-".