These are some of the ideas which I collected after some thinking and looking around, about the movie Babel. If you have not watched it, you are advised to not read further. I am writing this mainly for the group of friends I went along to watch the movie. By the way, it is both a baffling and beautiful movie at the same time.

1. The three threads in the movie, are all brilliant human stories touching us with delicate moments. The Japanese storyline is infact the one I liked most. The disco scene was wonderful. Note that all three storylines have different color palettes and background sounds. The camerawork is brilliant, many scenes manage to stay in the memory (esp. the Tokyo ones, younger brother shouting at the cops hands raised, the maid breaking down and crying before the indifferent cop, etc). It is also a notable point that the moroccan and the Mexican stories end bitterly, the American ends almost happily and the Japanese one in an indeterminate state. This makes them more life-like stories. (Yes, the Mexican one is a little bit stretched, but who knows what happens to border crossers.)

2. Babel means confusion. (It is also refers to an old Christian story which everyone knows about.) As the name suggests, the movie is about failure to understand and the failure to convey ourselves clearly to another. The deaf-mute being the most straight forward example. Having lost an infant son to SIDS, the American couple are probably struggling with their guilt and grief. (SIDS according to wikipedia, can cause parents to feel a lot of guilt). Failure to convey and understand each other’s mental state was the possible reason of their strained relationship. The Japanese girl and father are similarly not able to help each other. Also, the girl is in more trouble because everyone except the kind policeman have trouble realizing what her actions mean (esp. the dentist). The Americans and Mexicans have their own version of misunderstanding each other because of the filters of intolerance, distrust.

3. Are you wondering that problems of miscommunication are not mainly due to language barriers in this movie? Husband and wife, father and children are the ones having trouble conveying each other. The arid desert in Morocco understood the call of distress immediately. Modern Tokyo is still having trouble understanding the distress signals of its deaf-mute daughter (because of her inability to convey it properly?). Strangers from different worlds tend to understand each other when their own are not (Remember rest of the Americans leaving the couple to fate).

4. Apart from all this, what did Chieko’s note say in the final scenes? I still have no clear idea, but these are the general ideas floating around: a) The note says that she killed her mother b) A suicide note c) a confession about the truth of her mother’s death and apology. I personally thought that the note was a suicide note. (In which she would jump out of the window as she explained). The cop’s kindness has probably made her not do it. I cannot really see the reason for (a). Anyway since the director thinks the contents are immaterial, I would consider it as her final attempt at conveying herself to someone, after all her earlier utter failed ventures.

5. Is all this instantly clear from the movie? No, that is why I wrote the movie is baffling. Its left to our intrepretation. There are lots of other small themes which I omitted (Like everyone lost someone to death in the story arcs, the butterfly effect: one small act of kindness resulted in so much loss and chaos.) This is also why analysis makes no sense. It spoils the fun too. Well, the movie’s name is Babel for no reason. But hey, it sure was fun to write this much. One thing is for sure though, I enjoyed the movie very well. But certainly not more than 21 grams. Some notable reviews are listed below which I came across:

NyTimes: Faces are better understood than words. (And goes into the details of the shots and camera angles)

Slate: Globalization is God’s weapon against the tower of Babel (Or how an American weapon destroys lives across the globe…ugh, but its a point of view.)

DenverPost: Interesting. Butterfly effect and the cynical world. And they like it better than 21 grams!

Rolling Stone : They are stunned by the movies complexity. After all, the story spans 4 countries, a number of languages, and races and still works. And look at the sheer quality brought about by its truely international cast.

Books again!

January 2, 2007

1. Happy new year to all.

2. 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 Its already an interesting start!

3.  A glorious Horror streak, as I read the legendary “The Call of the Cthulhu” over the weekend. This short story is regarded as a genre defining creation. While I was not overwhelmed by horrible nightmares during nights, I immensely liked the language and the narration style. The story will invoke in the reader the ancient fear that is probably inscribed in our racial memories. What happened on Earth before humanity rose? Were there any other beings who ruled over like we do now? Is there any of it left which is waiting anxiously to take over the territory once lost? Were we once so dumb to be their slaves? In our hectic race to mastery on Earth’s resources did we forget that we were once slaves?

Most of H.P Lovecraft stories evoke such fear in the reader’s mind. Cthulhu, or the great old one as he/it is known became so popular that it became a pop-culture phenomenon in itself.

So if you are ready for some horror, maybe you can start with this masterpiece. And hey, I have something else for you, if you cannot find a book. The Horla which is an old short story (originally in French) which is said to have inspired Cthulhu.  And then, when you come back from reading the Call, you can maybe visit this interesting short called I, Cthulhu, written by Neil Gaiman. *

And I am relieved to be back among some books.

4. 6 ! by the time I was writing this post. Awesome Max!

5. Bob Dylan! I am finally starting to like his songs. 🙂 Starting with “Like a rolling stone” and “Desolation row”.  Really strong lyrics for the former. But Desolation row, now, that is a very interesting song. The song forms an interesting mental picture, involving a number of interesting characters (some of which I don’t know about) and interesting situations in a place called Desolation row. If anyone finds out what exactly the song is about, please tell me. 🙂

6. Had a remarkable time with friends on the first day of the year.  It will be cherished for a long time.

* These are horror stories. Except maybe for the Gaiman short story. Approach them if you are comfortable with the genre. 🙂 (In other words, you are warned)