Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I like movies. I like to watch them for several reasons. I find them entertaining, but I also find them very thought provoking. I like to see the way God is expressed through pop culture, even sometimes when the people creating the work do not profess to know Him. When I saw the ad for Babel I was very intrigued.

The awards buzz, including 7 academy awards nominations had me even more interested in this film.

The preview made it seem like Babel would have a very intriguing multi-continental plot involving many languages, and would really delve into the problem of language barriers.

Unfortunately, this is not a movie that lives up to its preview. Babel does deliver on a plot that involves the US, Japan, Mexico and Morocco. The problem is that there is only a loose connection between these places. The parents are in Morocco, the kids are in the US and travel to mexico, and there is an almost unrelated story in Japan that has a very small connection to the main plot.

The stories are all interesting, and they are all in their native tongue with sub-tittles, but other than in a few isolated incidences, language does not create a barrier. If anything, the most significant barrier is for the deaf girl who cannot communicate with speech. The end result is an interesting film that doesn't deliver on its initial promise.

The primary problem for me comes from the Japanese storyline. While interesting in covering the challenges of a deaf person in a loud society, the story is severely damaged by a disturbing amount of unnecessary nudity. This nudity is actually essential to the telling of this particular story, but there is virtually no relation to this part of the story with the rest of the film, so it feels very out of place. I would not choose to watch a film about a girl who gets frustrated by her inability to communicate and decides to flash people out of frustration. But that is what this one subplot "adds" to this film. It's a shame, because the deaf plot is really the most effective commentary on the value of communication.

Even if you were to remove this aspect of Babel, I do not think the film would have worked at providing insight into the language barriers we face in the world. When I first saw the trailer I was very intrigued by what twists and turns the story would take. When I saw the film, I found the loose connections unfulfilling, the cultural clashes to be underrepresented, and the overall film to be a disappointment.

Babel wasn't terrible, don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the film, but I think I would have liked it more if I had never saw a preview for it and wasn't expecting something much bigger and more profound.


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