22 October 2011
Directed and produced by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel (2006) is a movie that encompasses the heartache, happiness, affliction and hope shared by people around the world, despite cultural barriers. This story connects four different families living in the United States, Morocco, Japan, and Mexico who portray extremely different walks of life, yet an accident in Morocco creates a ricocheting chain of events that interlocks these four different families. The name -- as influenced by the biblical story -- illustrates the confusion, chaos, and tension that is present in the film. The amazing feature this film portrays is its use of editing. While Babel exemplifies careful cinematography, such as extreme close-ups, landscape shots, and shaky but effective camera movements, Inarritu's style of editing is commensurate with the film's epic title.
In this movie there is no sense of editing narrative time; specifically, there was zero chronology in the sequences. For example, near the beginning of the film the American father in Morocco makes a phone call back home to San Diego. He updates the nanny Emelia on his wife's situation when she is getting surgery, however, the actual operating scene does not occur until near the end of the movie. Similarly, Chieko (the Japanese teenager) sees the news report of the Moroccan shooting on television as well as the culprits, who the police do not discover until later. The constant jump cuts intentionally create gaps in the action. Right when something intense or climatic happens to one of the families, the scene immediately changes and picks up with another family. In this sense there is no awareness of time during the movie because all of the connections are jumbled and overlap one another.
Babel intensely captures the authentic lives of many characters and correctly portrays different cultures' norms. For instance, when the American woman is shot, the United States embassy instantly assumes that it is a terrorist attack even though that area was considered to be free of terrorists. In addition, the hospitality shown to the American couple when they are stranded in the rural town reflects the kindness often seen in Muslim and other Christian cultures. There are numerous other scenes that depict the proper lifestyle and customs of these different cultures, which is both appreciated and enlightening. This film's cinematography and editing make it chaotic and suspenseful. The combination of camera movements and jarringly abrupt jump cuts create a thrilling and unpredictable movie.