Babel Brad Pitt

Babel Brad Pitt 1
The story of the Tower of Babel turns up in Hebrew and Muslim texts, as well as the Bible, but the basic gist is that men tried to build a stairway to heaven and God subverted them by giving them different languages. They could no longer understand each other, so the whole construction fell apart.

It's a powerful myth because it carries so many ideas: that there are two worlds and we got the lesser one; that God is spiteful; that cultural differences are the root of all our woes since then; even that crossing a border without permission will get you in a whole world of trouble.

Some scholars believe the tower was in southern Iraq, or in Babylon itself. The tragedy of modern Iraq is never mentioned in this superb new film but I'm sure that's one of the things on the minds of the filmmakers, the same Mexican writer and director team behind Amores Perros and 21 Grams.

The story of the tower works so well for what the film is about, which is that the relationship between rich and poor, as individuals or countries, is much more connected than we might think. It's a film about the terrible consequences of bad decisions.

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Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel are intended as a loose trilogy about the modern world. They fit together as a fairly pessimistic statement but that in itself is exciting. It tells us that writer Guillermo Arriaga and director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu don't underestimate either audience or medium. Just when it seemed like the infantilisation of cinema was complete, along comes a film like Babel to challenge and revive your senses.
There are four stories here, taking place more or less simultaneously in four countries. Part of the challenge is to work out the film's complex time shifts. A phone call at the start recurs later in the film, to clarify the sequence of events, but it takes a while to realise that we're going back in time. Babel literally means confusion and the filmmakers take that as one of their (dis)organising principles. Chaos is a good thing in these movies; the fact that we're not sure what's going on is liberating.

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The film begins in the mountains of Morocco. A man trades a gun to a family of goatherders. The father gives the rifle to his two sons, so they can shoot jackals. The boys take a pot shot at a distant tour bus, not expecting to hit anything. The bullet hits Susan (Cate Blanchett), an American woman, in the shoulder. At a small village where there is supposed to be a doctor, Richard (Brad Pitt) carries his wife into a dark house, where an old crone watches in silence. He then gets on the only phone in the village. Pretty soon the airwaves flash a story that terrorists have shot an American woman in Morocco.
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Babel Brad Pitt