91 of 122 people found the following review helpful
Chapter 11 of Genesis tells a story of mankind's attempt to reach heaven by building a tower, not as a way to glorify God but as a way for mankind to glorify themselves by putting them on God's level. God strikes the plan down by confusing/creating different languages so that the builders cannot understand each other thereby suspending communication. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu, along with his screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga's take on this material is "Babel" their third and most ambitiously produced film with locales in Morocco, Japan, San Diego and Mexico and like the Bible story, Iñárritu is once again dealing with communication or lack thereof: how we talk and either no one listens or more to the point...doesn't understand. Simple themes told exceedingly well here.
In the best sequence, shot in Japan a deaf mute girl, Chieko (Rinko Cucuchi), desperate for attention and contact other than she can get from her pals, tells (actually signs) to her father (a sad sack Koji Yakusho from "Shall We Dance?"): "You Never Listen to Me!" Ironic on at least a couple of levels. Chieko is reeling from the normal drama of being a teen as well as the not so normal drama of having found her Mother dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. She is also dealing with a father who is also devastated and unable to comfort himself much less his daughter. They live in a glacial glass high-rise box in Tokyo: a symbol of the icy coldness of the lives that they live within.
The two other parts of the film deal with the stars (a very good Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) in Morocco on vacation (!?) and a supposed terrorist attack and the third, a very real and scary sequence involving the Pitt/Blanchett children and their caretaker, Amelia (a terrific Adriana Barraza) and their harrowing journey into Baja California.
Every one of Iñárritu's films ("Amores Perros," "21 Grams" and "Babel") contain at least one gut-wrenching, emotional and transcendentally beautiful scene: the dog fight in "Amores Perros," the Naomi Watts scene with Sean Penn in which she explains how it is to lose a family in a random accident in "21 Grams" and here in Babel: Chieko at a Shinto dance club, the soundtrack stopping and starting to approximate Chieko's experience, Chieko: wide-eyed, wide-eyed, mouth agape...experiencing a world in which feeling and touching is paramount and hearing isn't.
Though Iñárritu and Arriaga stretch the "if a butterfly flutters its wings in Hawaii, etc." metaphor to the breaking point, there is no doubt that
"Babel" has got the goods where it counts: deep in the recesses of its soul and heart.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 27, 2007 7:30:36 PM PST
nice use of references like
and interesting word juxtapositions like glacial glass and icy coldness
I like your reviews alot
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 28, 2007 7:45:35 AM PST
MICHAEL ACUNA says:
thanks very much, d.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 29, 2007 8:33:51 PM PST
"Rocky Raccoon" says:
I like how smoothly your review reads.
Posted on Jun 2, 2007 10:09:12 PM PDT
Posted on May 15, 2011 12:51:19 AM PDT
B. Waters says:
Very insightful review, I appreciate your perspective and the way you communicate it. Do you think the original biblical builders of Babel could have been motivated by fear of another big flood? A very tall tower, sealed with pitch, might be tall enough to rise above high water! : 7 /
Posted on Sep 3, 2012 5:07:50 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 3, 2012 5:09:19 AM PDT
"Chapter 11 of Genesis tells a story of mankind's attempt to reach heaven by building a tower, not as a way to glorify God but as a way for mankind to glorify themselves by putting them on God's level. God strikes the plan down by confusing/creating different languages so that the builders cannot understand each other thereby suspending communication."
Interestingly, Chapter 11 of Genesis does NOT say that:
"1. And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
2. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
3. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
4. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
5. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
6. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
7. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
8. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
9. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth."
Nowhere does the text explicitly say that the building of the tower was a way for mankind to glorify themselves rather than God. It explicitly says that it was a way to "reach unto heaven". Isn't that what religious people, mystics, try and do: get closer to God? But we have been so accustomed, for centuries and millenia, to being told and believing that God sent onto mankind the confusion of languages to strike down mankind's arrogance and pride, that we don't even read any more what the text explicitly says.
What the text explicitly says (provided that King James' translation is accurate, I haven't specifically researched), is that the reason for God to strike mankind down was the concern that "now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do". Like: the fruit of knowledge was enough knowledge. Let's prevent them from knowing more, and thus coming closer to Me.
If confusion of languages was part of God's plan, should we burn at the stake Merriam, Webster, every dictionary and translation and inventor of translation softwares, and even King James and every translated Bible? I've never seen any religious biggot advocate that, and I find religious biggots very inconsistent here.
If the reasons for God sending upon mankind the confusion of languagues was (as the text explicitly says) to prevent mankind from doing just anything "which they have imagined to do", should artists, novelists, scientists, inventors, architects, all those that for centuries and millenia have tried to turn their imagination into reality, made possible the impossible, built real or metaphorical skycrapers and worked for the betterment of the life of mankind, be burnt at the stake? I don't think even the worst religious biggots advocate it (although, some, maybe...) and I find them very inconsistent here.
Or maybe not. I've always found it strange that God should send strife and confusion among mankind (and what it begets, and what the film is about: misunderstanding, fear, violence, war). Isn't strife, confusion, fear and violence a thing of the Devil, rather than of God? Oh but yes: the Devil is also part of God's plan. And what's the plan? Keep mankind into submission, prey of death, malady, ignorance, fear; to keep mankind into its condition of mankind, despite the unfortunate ingestion of the forbidden fruit.
Oh, and, from reading the text of the Bible with pre-conceptions rather than reading it for what it explicitly says, we also forget that Babel is not just about the division and confusion of languages: it is also about mankind being "scattered abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth". That too is part of the Plan. Burn Freddy Laker and American Airlines at the stake.
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