Film / Babel

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"Listen"
Tagline of the movie.

A 2006 film conceived by writer Guillermo Arriaga and director Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Babel is an ensemble piece headed by Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt; they play an American couple, Richard and Susan, who are vacationing in Morocco trying to sort out their marital difficulties. But then, she's shot by two local boys fiddling around with their father's new rifle. As Richard tries to get help with much difficulty, the couple's Mexican nanny takes their kids to Mexico for her son's wedding. Meanwhile, in Japan, a deaf schoolgirl, Chieko, tries to overcome the death of her mother and her own sexual frustration.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adult Fear: What happens to Richard and Susan's children. That when you're too far away to help, your children will be lost and taken from you. Or for the nanny, that your love and care won't protect them. For Chieko's father, the idea that his daughter may kill herself at any moment.
    • Also, the almost crippling fear and confusion that comes with something terrible happening to you when you're in a foreign country.
    • There's also Abdullah seeing Yusef get shot multiple times in a stand-off with the police and Ahmed surrender to the police as a result.
  • Anachronic Order
  • Bedouin Rescue Service: Off-screen. Richard and Susan's children were found by police troopers. May verge on a Deus ex Machina.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Mike and Debbie can understand their nanny's Spanish fairly well, but they don't seem to speak it.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Amelia's plotline. Mike and Debbie eventually end up being rescued, but Amelia is arrested by the Border Patrol because she is an illegal immigrant, and is deported back to Mexico despite living in America for 16 years.
  • Culture Clash: A central part of the film.
    • A cultural emphasis on personal space makes life awkward for Chieko, who must touch others and be touched in order to get anyone's attention.
    • The Moroccan man who takes care of Susan refuses point-blank to take any money in payment for having taken care of them.
    • Mike and Debbie at the wedding in Mexico as they play with the other children there. When their nanny's nephew Santiago beheads one of the chickens they played with, they are rather shocked while the Mexican children just shrug it off, since the latter are used to seeing livestock being slaughtered.
    • Richard and Susan's tour group become very paranoid after Susan gets shot, as they fear they're being targeted by Moroccan terrorists due to Morocco being a largely Islamic country.
  • Downer Ending: In the Morocco plotline, Yussef and Ahmed are cornered by police. Ahmed ends up getting shot twice (possibly fatally) and Yussef surrenders himself to police custody.
  • Fan Disservice: The audience is treated, first with a view of Chieko's pantiless crotch, and later a full frontal shot of her naked body, but, given the context, the scenes are devoid of titillating overtones.
    • A young boy masturbating while thinking about his sister.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Subverted. Although it seems like Susan is destined to die because of statements made in the other plotlines, she actually survives at the end.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting
  • Going Commando: Chieko takes off her panties to give the boys sitting at the next table in a restaurant an eyeful of her private parts. Later on, she goes out without wearing any under her short skirt.
  • Good Times Montage: We are treated to a montage of Chieko enjoying her time in the city with her friends.
  • Hyperlink Story
  • Idiot Ball: What kicks off the entire plot. "Hey, look, we have a rifle. Let's shoot at a moving bus because that's always a good idea!".
    • Another one is Amelia deciding to take Mike and Debbie across the border to Mexico without their parent's consent, and then trying to return in the middle of the night with her clearly drunk nephew.
  • In Medias Res: The plots do not parallel exactly in terms of time. By the time the story with the nanny begins, Susan has already been brought to the hospital.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Detective Mamiya orders another shochu after his emotional encounter with Chieko.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Yussef and Ahmed kick off their plot by accidentally shooting an American tourist. Their plot ends with Yussef being forced to watch Ahmed getting accidentally shot by police.
  • Meaningful Name: The title of the movie. The Babel Tower was being built as an effort to get higher up than even God himself, but he got pissed and destroyed the tower. He condemned humankind to speak different languages, so they can't understand each other. The title of the movie is very, very subtle.
  • Missing Mom: Chieko's dead mother.
  • No Ending: Most of the characters' fates are left unknown.
  • One Degree of Separation: Strained to the breaking point with Chieko, whose father sold the gun that started all the trouble.
  • Oscar Bait: Oh, boy. All the contained acting, the angsty storylines, and the intercultural poverty or whatever. Classic Oscar favorites, all of them.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The major theme of the movie.
  • P.O.V. Cam: Used to spellbinding effect in the scene where Chieko visits a nightclub with a friend.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Among the Moroccans who shelter Richard and Susan. They will not take any money for having sheltered Richard and Susan - it was, simply, the right thing to do.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Santiago's fate after abandoning his aunt and the children in the middle of the desert is never revealed.
    • It's never made clear whether Ahmed survives the wounds inflicted on him during the police standoff.

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