"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Friday, February 09, 2007

What's Really Behind "Babel"

Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in Babel film
The film Babel, currently in theaters, has received great acclaim from critics, along with a nomination for the the Oscar for Best Picture.

I wonder, however, if they would be so enthused if they realized exactly what is going on in the film.

As you perhaps already know, Babel stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett and tells four separate stories, set in four different countries, that ultimately interlink and affect one another. The central story is the shooting of American tourist Cate Blanchett in Morocco, and her husband's frantic efforts to get medical help for her in that economically undeveloped area of the world.

An obvious theme of all four stories is the difficulties people have in communicating with one another, and not just across cultures but even (and perhaps most importantly) within families. That's really an enormous cliche of our times, however, and hardly worth the acclaim heaped on the film. Another evident theme is the nearness of violence and death to each of us every moment of every day. Ditto the cliched nature of that one.

In addition, the film deals with trendy issues such as the War on Terror and War in Iraq, immigration, and income inequality, all without taking any explicit political stands (a smart move on the part of the writers and director). That probably accounts in large part for the critical acclaim, along with the screenwriters' and director's skill in presenting the four stories.

But what few people seem to have noticed is what sets everything in motion in the film: parents neglecting their children as the adults pursue their own wandering interests. In each of the stories, parents' failure to look after their children results in tragedy and contributes crucially to the central incident of the film, the shooting of Blanchett's character.

I don't have an opinion on whether the filmmakers did this in order to make a statement. I rather think not. However, it is indeed there and is the one really interesting and fully true observation in the film.

So here we have what turns out to be a postmodern pro-family film. Sounds like a winner to me.

From Karnick on Culture.

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