Thursday, December 28, 2006


Now, I like pretentious, wanky, artsy movies as much as the next guy but the movie Babel pushes even me to the limits.

I like movies that challenge but I can't help feeling Babel is just doing it to be considered "artistic". Being obscure just for obscurity's sake. Critics will say it delves into the nature of family relationships and of misunderstandings of language and culture. Blah, blah, blah. It made me want to put a gun into my mouth.

Babel is a depressing movie with moments that are damn near unwatchable (most notably the kids in the desert). It was painful to watch as a parent and I simply do not understand how it propels the story at all.

It has disparate story lines in 3 countries tied together with a common thread like Magnolia or more recently, Crash. I liked those movies ... this one I'm not so sure about.

I know it's trying to say something about synchronicity or causality but it does so little that would allow you to invest in the characters or to care about what happens to them.

I get that the story is supposed to make you feel unconfortable and maybe confused ... like the characters. It's about what can happen because of misunderstanding borne out of not listening or just because of differences in language. But just because I understand what the director was trying to do doesn't mean it's an enjoyable or even an enlightened experience.

Maybe some clue to the movie comes from the word Babel itself. From Wikipedia:
Babel is mentioned in Genesis 10:10 as the home city of Nimrod.

[10] And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. [11] Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, [12] And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city. (KJV)
According to Genesis 11:1-9, mankind, after the deluge, travelled from the mountain where the ark had rested, and settled in 'a plain in the land of Shinar' (or Senaar). Here, they attempted to build a city and a tower whose top might reach unto Heaven, the Tower of Babel.

The attempt to build the Tower of Babel had angered God and in his anger, made each person involved speak a different language which ultimately halted the project and scattered and disconnected the people across the planet

It's not to say there are not great performances. Pitt's acting is as understated and mature as any he's done. Blanchett is great. Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal, previously of the excellent movie The Motorcycle Diaries, is also good. The movie looks great and is shot in gorgeous locations. But it's all wasted because it's missing something ... I'm not sure what. Maybe heart?

I don't know how to rate it. It's either one of the most brilliantly original things that I've seen in awhile or it's an overwrought piece of crap in love with it's own cleverness. I may change my mind on this one. It would probably reveal itself better in a 2nd watching. But I'm not sure I have the patience or desire to do that.


greatwhitebear said...

It appears to be pretty much unanimous that this movie sucks. Thanks for the warning. I will trust your judgement, along with that of mister anchovy, who only gave it one salty out of five.

I think I will take my movie money and see a college hockey game instead.

Laura said...

I'll have to wait until this comes out on cable. I wasn't terribly interested to begin with, but now I definitely can find better movies to spend my money on.