Life is simple (living it is complex) as we discover in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Babel. From the first frames of an endless Moroccan desert landscape mystically unfolding with a haunting musical background, the last installment of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s trilogy takes hold. Events are taking place that, while seemingly disconnected, cleverly connect as if pieces of a puzzle.
The connections are subtle and a small part of a larger story. The beauty of the film is the beauty of Inarritu’s vision enhanced by cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and the colourful cast of characters he chose to inhabit the screen from four disparate parts of the world.
Babel weaves around the simple idea that small mistakes can take on tragic consequences, and while doing so, a “butterfly effect”- defined in Webster’s New Millennium Dictionary of English as; a chaotic effect created by something seemingly insignificant, the phenomenon whereby a small change in one part of a complex system can have a large effect somewhere else – occurs in the lives of all of the main characters.
There are four stories going on here. The story of Americans Richard (Brad Pitt) and Susan (Cate Blanchette), who, while touring Morocco after the tragic death of one of there children from SIDS, find their relationship strengthened by events that occur as a result of an additional storyline to the film.
Two children in a mountain village in Morocco practice with a rifle bought by their sheep-farming father for the purpose of killing predators to his flocks. One son aims for the tour bus and Susan is shot, sparking an international incident with terrorist undertones.
While this story evolves, another story is spinning back home in the United States where Richard and Susan’s children are in the care of their Mexican nanny Amelia (Adriana Barrasa) who must attend her son’s wedding in Mexico and cannot find a replacement to mind the children when Richard and Susan are delayed due to the shooting.
Amelia’s decision to take the children with her turns into chaos at the hands of her nephew Santiago (Gael Garcia Bernal). The fourth story woven into this tapestry involves the disturbed life of deaf-mute teenager Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi), who is testing her teenage boundaries in Japan with an abandon created as a result of the death of her mother and life with her distant father.
One powerful scene has ecstasy enhanced Chieko and friends entering a rave to the sounds of a phenomenal remix of Earth Wind and Fires disco hit “September” by Shinichi Osawa. The sound is cleverly muted on and off allowing the audience to experience Chieko’s life first hand in a most disturbing-yet engrossing way. This heart-pumping scene alone is worth the price of admission.
That’s the wonder of the film. It involves the viewer with the struggles in the lives of everyone. Inarritu’s masterful talent brings an intimacy between the audience and the characters on the screen that is so immediate it hurts to watch their individual pain. Each performance is achingly honest and emotions are revealed so close to the bone that the viewer cannot possibly disconnect from the personal tragedies unfolding.
The film gives you a close-up on the human condition and you are left considering people and places with a familiarity gleaned from the experience of watching.