—Tagline of the movie.
Babel may seem to be an example of the Idiot Plot, in which at many points one word or sentence could clear everything up. But these characters are not idiots, and desperately want to utter that word or sentence, but are prevented because of (a) the language barrier, (b) their cultural assumptions, (c) the inability of others to comprehend what they are actually saying, and (d) how in that case everyone falls into an established script made of prejudice and misunderstanding... This is a film about people who do what we might do — if we were them."
A 2006 film conceived by writer Guillermo Arriaga and director Alejandro González Iñárritu, Babel
was released to mixed reviews note
, but still earned seven Oscar nominations. It won for Gustavo Santaolalla's score.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.
- 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.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: A central part of the film. A cultural emphasis on personal space makes life awkward for the deaf teenager, who must touch others and be touched in order to get anyone's attention. And the Moroccan man who takes care of Susan refuses point-blank to take any money in payment for having taken care of them.
- Also, 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.
- 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.
- 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!".
- And let's face it, most of the characters carry it at some point. What about the Mexican nanny, for example, leaving the children alone in the desert?
- Heck, her whole storyline. How could she possibly think she could take those kids to another country and their parents would either never find out about it or be totally okay with it when they did?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.