Our planet is constantly internationalizing, but with hundreds of different languages and cultures, comprehending each other is a major task that will put us increasingly more often in challenging situations. "If you want to be understood, listen" says Mexican auteur Alejandro González Iñárritu. His film, Babel, is a mosaic of thematic depth, putting focus on the misconceptions, conventions and stereotypical thinking that inhibit our interaction. The ingenious and mature script by Guillermo Arriaga is constantly impartial towards its characters and themes, and this keeps the viewer constantly pensive. There's just no way to watch Babel while at the same time keeping a simplified worldview intact.
On one level, the film is also slightly about politics, but this is by no means Iñarritu's point. As with his 21 Grams, the concern is for people and the intersection between their basic equality and their different cultural ballast. Again, the director constructs his film in a quilting fashion, but you'll find it as a bit of a relief that he isn't trying to bring his different segments together with any kind of over-plotted cohesion. There are connections, but merely contextual.
All three segments are potent, but the one that merges the thematics together is the segment from Japan. Here, politics and cultural difference is of little importance, but the frustration of lack of communications is at its most apparent. Iñarritu also points out the cultural differences of East Asian, Muslim, American and Latin ways of life in a beautifully objective, but still warm way. He gives us a glimpse into each of these cultures without wanting to take a stand.
The acting is breathtaking - especially from the lesser known performers, particularly Boukber Ait El Caid as the youngest Moroccan boy, Adriana Barraza as the Mexican nursemaid and Rinko Kikuchi as the deaf Japanese girl. Babel is one of the most important films of the year. Not because it reveals something unknown, but because it makes you seriously think about it.