Touring the world, from Japan to America, Mexico and Morocco, Babel captures a universal picture of pain and suffering. Not physically connected, the four groups of people were more or less, intentionally or by chance, directly or indirectly causing each other to suffer and grieve. As unbelievable as it is, these people, who speak different languages, have different family backgrounds and beliefs, totally different culture, are intertwined in this sad fate.
Where else can you watch a movie that takes you from the luxurious apartment of a rich Japanese businessman, to the austere sceneries of mountain and small villages in Morocco, then hot and sexy salsa dance of Mexico? Each group of people have their own religion and custom, therefore different ways of dealing with friends, family, strangers, with desires and sorrow, with the sexual changes of growing up, and most importantly, with loss and death of a close one.
What remains after all the complex and diverse relationship between these distant characters is that, as humans, we built such barriers and chasm to separate us, that at critical times we are alone left alone to deal with our pain. Everybody had their own physical and mental wounds, but nobody attempted once to try to understand what the other is going through. The tourists are ignorant to Susan Jones’ accident just as much as Richard Jones’ forgets to care about his babysitter’s important event. And the Jones’ would forever just know the pain that they went through in 5 days, but never of the pain that the isolated Moroccan family had to live with for the rest of their lives. When we lose something close to us, it’s as if nothing else matters. No one can measure and compare the suffering that Susan went through to the sorrow that Amelia experienced at the dessert or at the border waiting to be deported, to the desperation and despondence that Chieko bore within her soul each day. No one can say who suffered more than the other, but it is apparent that they chose to suffer alone rather than try to understand and relief each other.
Babel emphasizes greatly how lonely human beings are, with our own thoughts and selfish desires, and our inability to seek beyond ourselves. Perhaps if we were a bit ‘smarter’, a bit more sensible and had psychic powers, we could have saved ourselves and others from all this pain. Each action we take trigger a reaction, and in some cases like those here in Babel, the consequences are worse than our imagination. But as humans, we are unable to see those consequences and therefore keep going on hurting, unknowingly, until we realize “pain is universal”.
“Grief changes shape, but it does not end.” – The disappeared, Kim Echlin.