Saturday, April 24, 2010

Babel & Mercury Retrograde

Periods of time when Mercury appears to move backwards (due to optical illusion) are known in astrological circles as Mercury Retrogrades. We are passing through one of these periods now, and until 11 May. During these times its thought that communication and travel difficulties become more common.

Communication. It's crucial. We take it for granted though and don't think much about it until something goes wrong.

That point was brought home to us this week as we watched one of the DVDs I bought in a junk shop on our last trip. Babel. It tells four interwoven tales of problems, tragedies, chain reactions brought about through lack of communication. It has to be said that there were some thoughtless and stupid decisions involved too. Babel could almost be sub-titled Mercury Regrograde !
The movie's title is a clue to the storyline. According to the Bible's Book of Genesis, Babel (the tower of) was built by Noah's descendants, probably in Babylon. They intended it to reach up to heaven; God foiled them by confusing their language so they could no longer understand one another. Man's different languages and dispersal around the Earth was, the story goes, a consequence.

a 2006 movie directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu and written by Guillermo Arriaga cleverly intertwines four very different themes, set in different parts of the world. It's pointed out again and again how lack of communication, not only between those speaking different languages, but between people using the same language, can lead to tragedy. There's political allegory involved too. The countries involved are Morocco, Mexico, USA and Japan. Guess which nationalities fare best with the happiest ending to their tales? Guess why!

I watched without first reading the blurb on the DVD cover, and was ready to throw in the towel after a slow first 15 minutes or so. I'm glad my less impatient husband felt we should wait a while longer. It's a movie watchable on more than one level. It can be appreciated simply as four adventures which have a common factor. That's the way we thought about it initially. Messages about lack of communication and political allegories sank in later.

After we'd watched the movie together my first comment to my husband was, "Four sets of people, all good, well intentioned folk, no malice involved, yet they managed to bring about some bad outcomes". "Yes", said he, "and what was at the meeting point of all four stories? A GUN!"

Babel is the third film of a trilogy (known as the Death Trilogy) by the same director/writer. The other two movies are also based on multiple but linked storylines (a format known as Hyperlink Cinema): Amores Perros and 21 Grams. I've already secured a cheapo used version of the latter for future viewing.


Anonymous said...

Ah, yes. I do remember this movie. I remember rewinding it a couple of times as well because I thought I'd missed a detail or two somewhere :).

Wisewebwoman said...

I've seen all 3, T. Amores Perez being my absolute favourite, it's still with me.
Babel was the least favourite. 21 grams is most interesting. Guess what the 21 grams is? I'm not telling.
I'll be interested in your take on it.
Mercury Retrograde would be a good title for a book?

Twilight said...

Deborah Steinberg ~~ Hi there!
Yes, I can relate to that. That's the kind of movie it is. :-)

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ I'll probably scribble a post about 21 grams eventually - I look forward to watching it. The third film (I assumed) must have subtitles, which I find a bit off-putting, but as you recommend it, I shall seek it out.

I like the format of interwoven stories - it's a format I've always hankered after writing myself. I even had a theme at the back of my mind, but somehow the rest won't come.

Yes Mercury Retrograde does have the sound and feel of a title !