A ballet dancer wins the lead in "Swan Lake" and is perfect for the role of the delicate White Swan - Princess Odette - but slowly loses her mind as she becomes more and more like Odile, the Black Swan.
4 interlocking stories all connected by a single gun all converge at the end and reveal a complex and tragic story of the lives of humanity around the world and how we truly aren't all that different. In Morocco, a troubled married couple are on vacation trying to work out their differences. Meanwhile, a Moroccan herder buys a rifle for his sons so they can keep the jackals away from his herd. A girl in Japan dealing with rejection, the death of her mother, the emotional distance of her father, her own self-consciousness, and a disability among many other issues, deals with modern life in the enormous metropolis of Tokyo, Japan. Then, on the opposite side of the world the married couple's Mexican nanny takes the couple's 2 children with her to her son's wedding in Mexico, only to come into trouble on the return trip. Combined, it provides a powerful story and an equally powerful looking glass into the lives of seemingly random people around the world and it shows just how connected we... Written by
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Babel weaves four disparate and seemingly unrelated tales into a distinct, gritty narrative about the importance of communication - and what can happen when it goes awry. The movie is oftentimes difficult to watch, with ultrarealistic cinematography and gutsy, honest performances from its entire cast, particularly Oscar-nominated actresses Adriana Barraza (Amelia) and Rinko Kikuchi (Chieko).
Told nonlinearly, the movie describes the travails of a troubled married couple with a tour group in Morocco, played by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Something in their past has driven them apart, and to help deal with the problem they have taken a trip together. Meanwhile, the sons of a shepherd fight over who's the better shot with their new rifle and fire a blast at the couple's tour bus, critically wounding Susan (Blanchett).
Richard (Pitt) calls home in San Diego to notify the nanny of their children, Amelia; Amelia is in a bit of a bind, because she expected the parents home so she could attend the wedding of her son in Mexico. With Richard and Susan not returning soon, and with no one else available to watch the children, she takes them with her to the wedding.
In Japan, a deaf-mute Japanese girl acts out in reaction to her mother's suicide, which she discovered; the virginal Chieko becomes a huge sexual flirt, even removing her panties in a crowded restaurant to flash older boys. Chieko craves human contact but feels that the world's even more shut off to her now than ever before, and she sullenly shuns even her father's attentions.
It should go without saying that this film really isn't for everyone. It's gut-wrenchingly tough to watch at times, especially when Susan's wound is being treated. You can readily imagine how it'd be if you, an unworldly American, were suddenly in dire need of expert medical attention in a part of the world that wasn't really famed for it. That's enough to strike terror in me already, and I haven't even mentioned how Richard and Susan are awaiting help to arrive in a small, impoverished village with no running water or electricity - and only one person who can speak English to them.
How exactly these stories are commingled becomes evident as the movie progresses, but it's not all elegantly laid out for the viewer to immediately grasp; this is accomplished in part by the nonlinear storytelling. We see a scene near the end of the movie that is a mirror image of one from the beginning, except told from a different character's perspective. That's a tribute to the wonderful camera-work and editing by, respectively, Rodrigo Prieto and the team of Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrone.
Barraza turns in a powerful, heart-breaking performance; at one point, she's stranded in the middle of the Sonoran desert with her two young charges clad in her dress from the wedding. Dazed by the blistering heat, Amelia cannot gain her bearings in the blazing heat, and she despairs. Then she makes a critical decision with devastating consequences.
Kikuchi is absolutely mesmerizing as the silent Chieko. Without uttering one word, she's able to convey a vast array of emotions, from loneliness to hostility to love to lust to affection. She's alternately serene and violent, in charge of and captured by her impediment. Chieko resents her father, her volleyball teammates, and most of all every so-called normal person who looks at deaf-mutes as monsters, creatures to be scorned and taken advantage of. Like Barraza, Kikuchi's role called for a difficult sacrifice: plenty of nudity.
Babel is a spellbinding, multifaceted story with towering, passionate performances by all of the leads. It's full of moxie and stark realism, and despite some minor plot implausibilities, it's a true feather in the cap for Inarritu.
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