Using one central event to link the lives of several different groups of characters and their accompanying situations and stories is a stylistic technique that has made film director Alejandro GonzÃ¡lez IÃ±Ã¡rritu famous. 2000s Amores perros (Love’s a Bitch) and 2003s 21 Grams both employed this structure.
Largely character and performance driven, IÃ±Ã¡rritu’s films use the central event (normally something tragic) to probe into the lives and emotions of those being portrayed. His films are about discovering and questioning life and demand active intellectual involvement from an audience. Alejandro GonzÃ¡lez IÃ±Ã¡rritu makes beautiful films but as Babel, his latest offering, rolled into its second half I couldn’t help but feel a tad… uninterested.
Babel moves from Morocco to Japan to Mexico and the United States and then back again. Focusing on an estranged couple (Brad Pitt & Cate Blanchett), a Moroccan family, a deaf Japanese girl (Rinko Kikuchi) and a Mexican nanny (Adriana Barraza) it highlights the difficulties and prejudices often associated with the unfamiliarity of a different culture or tongue. To say anymore concerning the plot would ruin what makes IÃ±Ã¡rritu’s newest film enjoyable; the piecing together of how each character is related.
The scope and the diversity exhibited within Babel is possibly its greatest accomplishment, both from a narrative and a filmmaking perspective. IÃ±Ã¡rritu must have a fantastic team of coordinators and planners because my head just spins when I try and think about how this film must have come together.
Jumping from one continent to another he and his team offer up a slice of life from each place visited. The attention to detail means that you to experience the accompanying culture almost intimately; one minute you’re following a group of female Japanese students through the high-tech streets of Tokyo and the next you’re sitting on a hill in the Moroccan desert with a pair of child goat herders. The everyday difference that exists between individuals as well cultures is highlighted wonderfully.
Another strong point of the film is its performances and this must be his strongest trait as a director. You might be thinking, “Well if I cast Brad Pitt I’m pretty certain I could get great performances as well.” True. The seasoned professional is easier to manage but when it comes to small children and actors whose primary language is not English (or Spanish for that fact) then directing – like IÃ±Ã¡rritu does – is a true talent. It’s great to see Brad Pitt not looking as smooth and clean as usual; he sports a beard and graying hair for his role.
What I didn’t enjoy about Babel was the fact that I have already seen this film before, albeit in another form. Sure, IÃ±Ã¡rritu and scriptwriter Guillermo Arriaga have broadened the horizons of their particular filmmaking style by employing international talent and locations – increasing its appeal – but still you can only see so many one-event-linking-many-together films before it gets old. Babel is fairly stale for this reason.
The open-ended structure employed by the film – one where you can think about and draw your own conclusions – is another thing that also annoyed me. Certain actions – like a letter being given to one of the characters (the contents of which we don’t get to see) – are meant to induce thinking in an audience but for once I just wished that the screenwriter and director of this film would say what was on their minds.
So, now the question of the Oscar nomination for Best Motion Picture of 2007: Does Babel deserve the nod? Yes, I believe it does. Does it deserve to win though? The answer is no, simply because Alejandro GonzÃ¡lez IÃ±Ã¡rritu and Guillermo Arriagac do not offer us anything new in terms of filmmaking style and structure.