Saturday, February 24, 2007

Babel

I've always been a bit uncomfortable with the biblical story of the Tower of Babel. As told in chapter 11 of Genesis, at one time humanity had a real sense of community, and a common language. In order to ensure those qualities existed as the population base grew, political leaders got together and decided to build a city. A tower--the Tower of Babel--would be the centerpiece of the new community.

God didn't take kindly to the idea, and decided to visit the construction site Itself.

Like its over-reaction at the conclusion of the creation story, the God of Genesis seemed troubled at what I see as progress. Inspiration and knowledge. Common understandings, and deep personal connections with other humans.


The ability to discern right from wrong.


So, Yahweh takes a look around and decides what's going on in Babel needs stopped, and fast. It wills that humans be scattered across the face of the earth, and speak in languages that will "confound" and "confuse" one another.

That sort of stops all the plotting and planning, you see.

The story of the Tower of Babel might be a way to explain how populations spread across the world, and how various languages developed. But it always made me uncomfortable because it paints the god of Genesis as petty, and as opposed to progressive evolution.
Preferring an isolated, confused population over one that can communicate easily just seems too controlling to me, and too short sighted.
Babel, directed by Alenjandro Gonzalez Inarritu and starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and a large number of supporting actors who really make up the heart of the film, tells the tale of that loss of community and the various types of isolation that results.
Similar to Crash, Babel tells four stories that take place in Morocco, Japan, Mexico and America, and how characters we meet and situations they encounter are connected to one event: the accidental shooting of an American woman (Blanchett) as she vacations in Morocco. As we watch the events unfold, we recognize how our isolation--the distances we put between ourselves and others through language, politics, fear, technology and poverty--effects us as humans on a day-to-day basis.
Long ago, according to Genesis, we had taken away from us the values that come from community, and forced upon us values focused on individual need, personal desire and selfish ambition. Inarritu does a fantastic job demonstrating that in subtle but powerful ways.

I'm still pulling for Little Miss Sunshine to hit the Oscar Best Picture jackpot. But Babel is the real deal. I hope you enjoyed it too.

2 comments:

Anathema Device said...

Thanks for reviewing this. It sounds like a cool movie!

jedi jawa said...

I don't know. It sounded sort of anti-American to me. Commie! ;)