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:: Babel

The film’s title alludes to the biblical story of the tower of Babel told in the book of Genesis as an explanation of the number of languages and races of human beings that inhabit the earth. According to the story, a united, monolingual humanity attempt to build a tower to reach up to heaven. A wrathful God, angered by mankind’s audacity to reach heaven, disrupts the building of the tower by taking away the builders united language and replacing it with many different languages which render communication virtually impossible, ultimately resulting in a cessation of building.

The film itself, with four converging stories and a multicultural cast, illustrates the modern day concept of globalisation, as opposed to the scattered, disconnected humanity resulting from the destruction of the tower of Babel. How modern humanity communicates and the effects of this communication is magnified in the film to reveal the minute degree of separation that links a single American-made rifle to a Moroccan guide, a Japanese hunter and to the shooting of an American tourist. What follows are four stories that seem to have little in common except the fact that each is intimately linked to the rifle used in the shooting.

Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Amores Perros and 21 Grams) the film takes place in Morocco, Japan, Mexico and the United States and explores the notion of culture, as opposed to simply language, as a dividing force in mankind. In Morocco a young boy herds goats, armed with his father’s rifle and brags to his brother that he can hit a passing tourist bus, seemingly oblivious to any form of consequence. An American woman (Cate Blachett) travelling on the bus is shot, her panic stricken husband (Brad Pitt) throws handfuls of US dollars at bemused Moroccan villagers in the vain hope that money will make the scheduled ambulance appear sooner. A deaf mute Japanese girl (Rinko Kikuchi) the daughter of the Japanese hunter who gave away the rifle in the first instance, struggles with teenage frustration of being overlooked by boys because of her inability to communicate verbally. Meanwhile, back in the United States, the American couple’s nanny (Adriana Barraza) takes their two young children to a wedding in Mexico, where they are bewildered by the language and customs they encounter.

Each of the four stories are equally compelling with great performances by the Hollywood stars (Pitt and Blanchett), as well as the first-time actors that enact the first story in Morocco. The stand out performance belongs to Rinko Kikuchi in her portrayal of the deaf mute Japanese girl. Overall, Babel handles each storyline brilliantly and ultimately reveals that individual decisions, however seemingly insignificant, can have an enormous impact. On a larger scale, the film shows how communication in the age of globalisation remains hindered by the harsh immigration policies of the Bush administration and the constant threat and overwhelming paranoia surrounding terrorism.