Monday, January 15, 2007


AOG, Madrid

Last Saturday night I went to see Alejandro González Iñarritu's last film Babel in Barcelona. For those of you uninitiated to the author, he is also director of Amores Perros and 21 Grams.

Babel is a masterpiece of silence, brevity, despair, arrogance and hopelessness. Don't expect a happy anything. There is only one beautiful image in the whole film- beautiful because it was filmed to be visually impacting. One which at the same time proves to be bittersweet. It involves the two brothers, and it is towards the end of the film. It will leave you breathless, if agonizingly so.

The multinarrative drama of this film, according to him, completes Iñarritu's "Death trilogy" along with the aforementioned films.

As I watched the painful images being shown, I kept thinking that the only thing worse than dying, is staying alive. At least in this film.

The movie portrays death as an antidote to life. Life triumphant is given little airtime in Babel. No religious dogma, just nature, life, society, in their purest form.

Iñarritu's "glue" throughout the film is probably a constant feeling of alienation from beginning to end. The images of lives going catastrophically awry, amiss even, are traumatic and disconcerting to watch; needless to say, it is a difficult movie to watch.

This may be because, at some level, we see ourselves in similar situations with similar outcomes. Because we understand that our lives can go the way of the character's. Because we all understand tragedy all too well.

Alejandro shows us the imbecilic power which figures of authority have over anyone as a whole.
To get into trouble, you can be anybody, and any one of us is anybody. But he lets us into the little known secret that, to get really out of trouble, it is not enough to be innocent, that can no longer be just passers-by, that your life can only be calamity free if you are somebody.

And, yes, we are all somebody, but I mean to be someone at a powerful or influential level. Normal folk never do well. We must always pay a price for being normal.

He also shows the general tendency American's have to overreact to simple situations. I am not saying that the situations portrayed in the film are simple in any way, but at their core, drama aside, they call for a response different from that portrayed by the American characters. Not all Americans of course, but there is a recognisable "national" trait here.

As a piece of anthropological research, Iñarritu also succeeds, but not because of the obvious "ethnic" characters. Although the film takes place in Mexico, Morocco, Japan and the US, I think you need to see it before commenting on this observation further.

The film, which stars Brad Pitt, Kate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal, Koji Yakusho (seen too in Memoirs of a Geisha) and Adriana Barraza, has already won a few awards and it stands nominated for 7 Golden Globes.

It looks Oscar-bound to me. The themes touched upon are exhausting and painful. Nonetheless, it is a great film. One which teaches you something about yourself you did not know you did not know.

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