review on BABEL
by Eric Pfund
Rating: Five Star
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Actors: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie
BABEL demonstrates very spectacular filmmaking. The cameramen didn’t worry about using Hollywood-style helicopters to capture the beauty of the land; they were mostly able to do so without the use of such tools, although only a few times was a helicopter used for filming purposes. The editor also had good conceptual and mental control over his techniques and never overdid anything. He used fast, millisecond-long clips when needed, such as the party scene in Japan, or in the wedding scenes in Mexico. Other times the editor used very long clips, probably to emphasize the dryness of particular regions such as the desert of Mexican-American borders, or the mountainous Middle Eastern area where the two brothers shot at the tour bus, the area around which most of the story revolved.
The soundtrack consisted of the type of music that the particular country is usually associated with. For example, in scenes that took place in Mexico, Mexican love songs and fast, ecstatic guitar music was played. In the Middle East, unusual Eastern flutes and stringed instruments were played, to provide the audience with a sense of either suspense (ie. The woman, Kate Blanchett receives a bullet through her upper chest and blood is goosing out of the injury while she goes half-unconscious), or relief (ie. Kate finally lives and is carried off by an American helicopter).
I felt that the usage of nudity in the movie was exceptionally important to the story. The deaf Japanese girl, for example, feels like nobody loves her because she’s different; therefore, the girl tries so hard to find what she believes is “love” by unraveling and getting herself completely naked in front of boys and men: discreetly showing her vagina (from the vagina scene in Babel) to a group of cackling boys, kissing and partially raping the Dentist while he looks inside her mouth, and undressing for an undecided police agent in her home, showing her entire nude body – boobs and all – in front of the camera. Contrary to my usual beliefs about nudity in films, I appreciated the fact that director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, was not fearful of what others might think regarding this topic, and how he chose to reveal this poor Japanese girl�s character and unravel her thoughts and emotions due to her social differences through her commonly-considered disgusting and unnecessary actions.
I also appreciated the way in which the director limited vulgar language, as it mostly offends me. Although much was used, it was used only when it was necessary. The language that Brad Pitt used brings about a thought process that I think is a mundane dilemma: would I use the same language if my wife was shot suddenly? Probably, yes!
I loved the lighting effects of the scene in which Mexican-American character drives through the American border patrol. A dark blue surrounded one side of his face, while a white fluorescent light shone brightly on the other side of his face, symbolizing the impulsive decision he had to make: get out now (dark blue light) or stay and be held-up by the police (white light).
The color of the film was important too. Whenever scenes changed, I knew instantaneously which country it was. A sunlit tan color for the Middle-East, a rustic, muddy red for Mexico and the American border, and blue and sometimes red for Japan. (Red was used mostly in the party scene in Japan, in which lights of all colors swerved down and around the dance floor. But Red was the overall color of the scene, emphasizing the chaos of the place.)
During one of the last scenes in the movie, when the little Arab boy is about to confess to the American FBI, the camera takes a swooping curve almost 180 degrees around his face, maintaining a fluid mobile “close-up” shot, but all the while sending an intended message to the viewers: a message of despair and anxiety. We know that this little boy is now suffering inside. He is suffering because of the things he’s done. The sinful acts he’s committed have affected him. Spying on his naked sister and then masturbating – although these things reveal his character and his thoughts and emotions – have played a course with him. This one camera shot sent shivers up my spine because I perceived the boy’s realization of this truth.