Thursday, April 16, 2009

World Movie Series - 20 - Babel

In 2008, ‘thanks’ to Dasavatharam, we heard a lot about Chaos theory. Everywhere, people were discussing how effective the Chaos theory was, in the film. Now, I have already written a review for Dasavatharam and had mentioned that if you want to get a real hold of the Chaos theory, try seeing Babel. I have seen the movie long ago, and it's good that I am posting the review, as part of the World Movie Series.

There are a lot of incidents all over the world, and might appear to be totally unconnected. But, if we take a closer look, we will be startled to find out how organized and connected they are, and how they affect our life. For ex, imagine the oil prices going up. The root cause must have been the price of the crude oil going up. It might have been triggered somewhere, and obviously affects us, down the line. This is an example of a direct effect. Indirectly, there might be numerous such incidents which affect us. We might not know the root cause and how the happenings are interlinked, but obviously we bear the brunt of the incidents.

How does chaos result when a Japanese man casually gives a rifle to a Moroccan man Hassan? Let’s find out.

The movie begins in Morocco inside a bus when Susan and Richard, an American couple, talk about the difficulties in their married life. Susan glares out of the window with a sad feeling, and gets hit suddenly by a bullet. She faints on her husband Richard, and the bus is stopped. We cut to Abdullah, a father of three children and the owner of a herd of goats buying a powerful Winchester rifle (The one used by Tex Willer & Kit Carson in their memorable adventures of Lion Comics) from Hassan, to kill the jackals which keep preying on his herd. Abdullah gives the rifle to his two young sons and sends them with the goatherd. While the goats are roaming, they both jump in an argument about how far they can shoot with the rifle, and Ahmed, the elder son tries to shoot at rocks. Yussef, the younger son grabs the gun from Ahmed and handles it professionally and aims at a bus on a road down below the hill, and shoots. The bus keeps on moving and a disappointed Yussef casually moves away. Suddenly the bus is stopped, and realizing the mistake they have committed, they both flee to home.

The husband Richard calls home, to inform the nanny of their kids. The nanny Amelia is tense, and after talking to Richard, she becomes even more agitated. She was expecting Richard and Susan to arrive soon, and since they are not turning up, she takes the kids to a lady who refuses to baby-sit them, and she hurriedly takes the children with her to Mexico for her son’s wedding.

We cut back to Richard. He takes his wife to the local doctor, who dresses Susan’s wound. Meanwhile, the American passengers want the bus to start, as they want to leave home early and as they fear the locals. They are unsympathetic to Richard and Susan, and secretly move the bus while Richard is attending his wife. Alienated in a foreign land with an estranged language, Richard doesn’t have the slightest clue.

We cut to Japan, where we see Cheiko, a deaf-mute young girl. She is angry towards her father for the suicide of her mother, and is sexually frustrated because of her problem. She starts to exhibit herself by dressing provocatively and trying to garner the attention of the boys of her age. She even tries to behave sexually to her dentist but fails.

We cut to Richard frantically trying to get help in Morocco. We then cut to Amelia, the nanny, traveling to Mexico for her son’s wedding along with the kids. Her nephew Santiago takes them in his car to the wedding. They cross the border and after the wedding, Amelia decides to return to U.S and while crossing the border, they are stopped by the border police. Santiago is drunk heavily and involves in an argument with the police, and when being checked, Amelia doesn’t have the no-objection certificate from the parents of the kids for their travel to Mexico. Being suspected by the police, Santiago suddenly starts the car and drives away.

We see Cheiko, the Japanese girl, trying to experiment sexually. She goes with two boys and drinks and smokes. After a while, she gets to meet two police officers who ask questions about her father. Finding one of them attractive, she invites him home. Thinking that she was questioned for her mother’s suicide, she tells everything about the suicide to the policeman. It was then that the policeman tells her he has come to investigate about a rifle her father sold to a Moroccan, the same rifle which was used by Yussef to shoot the bus in the initial moments of the film.

Cheiko tries to seduce the policeman by appearing nude, and the policeman soothes Cheiko adoringly. He then leaves. He confronts Cheiko’s father who assures the policeman that the rifle was a gift and it was not sold in the black market. The police man offers his condolences to his wife’s suicide and the father shouts back that it was indeed a suicide and he has answered the police many times. He then enters the apartment when a nude Cheiko watches his arrival from the balcony with sadness.

We then see a pathetic Amelia wandering in the desert with the children, as Santiago has fled, fearing the police. Realizing that they all will die eventually in the desert if they don’t go for help, Amelia instructs the kids to stay there and goes for help. She meets a border patrol officer who arrests Amelia. She then tells him about the kids and when the police go the place where the kids are left, they are missing. The police take Amelia to the police station and after a while, the kids are found. The police inform Amelia that she has to be deported to Mexico as she doesn’t have the permit to stay in U.S. In spite of her pitiable protests that she has been staying in the States for sixteen years, she is deported.

Meanwhile, the U.S government treats the attack on Susan as a terrorist activity and pressurizes the Moroccan government to nab the wrongdoers. The Moroccan police trace the rifle back to Hassan and investigate him and find out that he has sold the rifle to Abdullah. The police rush to Abdullah’s home and while they ask the route to the elder son Ahmed, he smells the danger and misguides them. Running back to home, he warns Abdullah and he escapes along with his sons. Eventually, the police surround them, and while Ahmed gets hit by the firing, Yussef starts shooting at the police, injuring an officer. Ahmed is again shot and is apparently killed. Seeing his father’s agony and grief, Yussef then surrenders to the police, and confesses everything.

We cut to Richard, getting help finally, after contacting the US embassy in Morocco, as a helicopter arrives at the scene, and Susan is taken to the hospital and recovers after a few days.

The film ends with a telephonic conversation involving Richard and Amelia. It was the same phone call which was made when Richard called home to tell about the accident in the beginning of the film, when Amelia was getting ready for her son’s wedding. He tells that he is allowing Amelia to go for the wedding as Susan’s sister will be able to baby-sit the kids. But we know that it didn’t happen and Amelia was forced to take the kids back to Mexico and the aftereffects.

Babel is an example of chaos theory. The chain of interconnected events triggered by a very small incident. Directed by Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu, it was released in 2006 in English. Nominated for seven academy awards, it won its lone Oscar for the best music category.

Almost the entire film was shot using the hand held camera. Only Richard and Susan's segment was shot on 16 mm film; the rest of the movie was shot on 35 mm. In the scene where the helicopter finally arrives at the village, there is a slight pause as the 35 mm format kicks in (thanks: IMDB).

Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu is acclaimed for the non-linier screenplay formats he uses. His first ever film, Amores Perros has already been featured in our World Movie Series. A brilliant example of Chaos theory and intelligent film making, Babel stands as a perfect result from a perfect director.

PS: - The title Babel refers to the story of tower of Babel, in chapter 11 of the book of genesis. It was built by the people of Babylon to demonstrate the glory of man and to make the builders famous. God, infuriated by this act of egoism, scattered the people throughout the world, making it difficult for them to unite again. Hence, Babel refers to the problem people face belonging to different castes and languages, and is focused in this film.

See the trailer here.


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