Babel (2006)

To me, where Iwo Jima is the film of an older, less progressive Hollywood, Babel is the future. It defines its own structure. It plays with time and story and relationships. In the end, you feel like you figured something out, you unlocked a truth. That is one of the most important things a film can do. Make you read the text and meet the author halfway, find his message on your own, opposed to just watching the Powerpoint.

And what is this message? Well, essentially it’s a discussion of what it takes to truly realize another person. What it takes to understand their humanity in contrast to your own. There are all kind of hurdles in the quest for empathy and often we’re not willing to jump these hurdles, let alone how rarely we are even capable. In Babel we get an idea of exactly under what circumstances we can close this gap between you and I. It’s in the extremes of agony (and perhaps ecstasy as well). Here, in pain and suffering, we have no choice but to see each other as we are, at our worst and at our most human. So, having reached this understanding, we can reply with compassion or indifference. And maybe this is one of the most significant choices we will ever make.

The performances were generally excellent. Some yays and nays for Brad Pitt, the general nay being that it’s nothing new, or it’s simply Brad Pitt actually looking his own age, but I really enjoyed his performance. I think it’s important to recognize real talent and not allow ourselves to take it for granted just because it never falters. A couple of the newcomers, Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi (both nominated) were spectacular. Maybe this is a testament to the direction, maybe not. At any rate, some really great performances.

Not only was this film well done, but it is important. This is a distinction we don’t make enough when judging the big films. Did this affect me? Did I learn something, or at least consider something I hadn’t before? We have this view of film-making or writing as something we, as the humble audience, could never do. But y’know what? That’s dumb. Making a good film isn’t as hard as we think it is. What’s much harder than making a good film is making a film that actually means something. A film that changes your perspective even if only momentarily. A film that speaks to your head and your heart. Think about that next time you watch one of the big ones.

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