Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Miscommunication About Babel

Babel was a very strange experience for me. Having recently revisited both of director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu's previous two features, Amores Perros (superb) and 21 Grams (dire), I didn't really know what to expect from his newest, multi-Oscar nommed epic, although I already knew that it was similar in it's structure of loosely connected narratives, and that it had already recieved a rather nasty backlash. Suffice to say, I was prepared not to like it, and, for quite a while through the film, I feared my suspicions were to be confirmed. Babel didn't seem to be saying much- it seemed to be rambling, filled with pointless scenes where culturally-specific music overlays jerky camera shots. However, as the film progressed, one of two possible things happened, and I'm afraid I can't tell you which it was: either a, it stopped doing those annoying things; or b, I stopped being bothered by them. I don't think- and I don't doubt that Innaritu might be slightly grieved by this- that Babel has anything particularly revolutionary or profound to say about miscommunication, or politics, or anything like that. I also don't think that his insistence on linking together the various threads is particularly important. Perhaps it was because I had already discovered how the four- and yes, there are four, not three- different threads all linked together, but I was not bothered by the slightly pandering way this was revealed- instead, I let the film's various stories affect me on their own terms, finding different levels of feeling and power within each one, and ultimately surprising myself by just how affected I was. I walked out of the cinema looking at the world differently, pondering how exactly I communicated with people, and, for all its fleeting failings, I have to say that Babel left me more affected than I ever expected. Grade: B

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