Babel

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Everyone should see this amazing film. Everyone. A fantastic macro-microcosmic study of the efffect of globalisation, even just transnational contact, on the personal.

To be honest, for the first moments of the film I wasn’t so into it. I can’t remember exactly what was going through my head, but it just didn’t seem all that much to me. Eventually though I was completely enthralled, and this was achieved by, if nothing else, the sonic aggression of the film. The power of the sound transported me into the world of the characters; Susan’s (Cate Blanchett) unbearably painful stitches cutting to Chieko’s (Rinko Kikuchi) experience of silence was one of the most powerful things i’ve seen in recent cinema.

As the newsreader attempts to reassure us that everything has wrapped up nicely and lives have resumed happily, this does nothing but remind us of the heartless impersonality of journalistic media forms. We are told that Susan has recovered but only see her doubly mediated, within the film and also behind the veil of an edited news report. We hear that the children were found but are not shown it. And (unless we read Japanese) we do not know what Chieko wrote in her note. A confession? An expression of pain that no one had stopped to notice earlier? At the film’s close she remains unprotected from everything, without even clothing to protect her physical body.

The film closes as the camera zooms out to reveal a darkened Tokyo, and Chieko and her father take up lessening significant space within the frame. Even in their home city they are alone. Chieko feels so isolated that she has fictionalised the space of her home into one that facilitated her mother’s suicide. So in the end, the ‘home’ is not necessarily homely, and does as little to protect us as the global unfamiliar. It can be as dangerous and unwelcoming as the foreign world.

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About cinemelo

I love to write about film and comment on culture. Hopefully providing insight and interesting thoughts for fellow cultural itinerants.
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