As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.(John 9:4)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Babel

It was a rare occasion in which we went to watch a movie without knowing what the movie is all about. I did assume the movie should not be too bad if Cate Blanchett is one of the casts. The first fifteen minutes were about a family in Morocco. A gun was bought to take care of the sheep from dangerous predators. The father of the family has to be away and the gun was literally handed to the two young teenage sons. They were testing the gun out and without the true intent to kill, a bullet was let out and hurt an American tourist (Cate Blanchett). She was traveling with her husband (Brad Pitt) in a bus and it was a holiday that they had taken with the hope of resolving some marital issues between them. This one shot brought us to the lives of others – the life of the maid of the American couple and the life of a lonely deaf-mute teenager in Japan who happened to be the daughter of a man who had given the gun to a Moroccan.

There were a number of messages in this story. At first, I think the movie is quite ambitious in trying to achieve too much. However, depending on how one wants to view it – it can have a main theme that plays with the contradiction of us living in a small world due to the advance of technology and communication, and the fact that we had never really advance in terms of communication due to our diverse background and culture. We have our perceptions and blind spots. Many times, the movie show to us that people generally do not try to understand another person because of preconceived ideas and fears.

The story of Chieko (Ringo Kikuchi) was a gripping one. I personally think Ringo did a great job in portraying her character as a lonely, frustrated and lost teenager. She is a strong portrayal of the young urban generation of today. She felt depressed and lonely because she lost her mother recently and her father is unable to relate to her because he himself is perhaps as depressed over the loss of his spouse. Chieko simply craves for human contact and thinks that giving herself sexually to others is perhaps the answer.

As for Amelia (Adrianna Barraza) who played the role of the maid to the children of the American couple, she was put in a situation which she did not deserve. No where to put the children, she has to bring them along to Mexico to attend her son’s wedding. She did not have any letter of permission from the parents and due to the rash act of his nephew to speed through the Custom check-point, all her “good works” was lost because of one silly mistake committed by her nephew. She has to be finally deported to Mexico after spending 16 years in America. It is a tragedy for her but isn’t that the reality of life? What can a maid’s voice amount to? She would be in a different situation altogether if her status in society is more than a maid!

Babel speaks about a world that is so disconnected and one strong message to all of us – the world is not getting any better but only worse. Personally, Chieko’s story touched me most because I realized how much we need God in our lives. Without Him, how do we ever know how to live right? Her story also shows how little the Christian community has an impact in Japanese society. Where is the voice of the Christians?

Some finds this movie a waste of time. Though it has its flaws like any other movies, I think it had achieved its purpose by setting me thinking about the frailty of human life and to be more discerning in my views because I may be clouded by my own perceptions.

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