Though I had initially skipped on the original release of Babel on DVD, once the two-disc special edition was announced I knew I would finally grab my chance to see the film everyone was raving about. While the film was certainly worthy of a lot of its praise, there were certain points while watching the film that I wondered exactly what the director was trying to tell with his camera.
After a supposed terrorist shooting in Morocco, a chain of events is set off that tie together characters from all around the world. Through some small detail, everyone of the characters become connected to one another, showing that even though we speak a different language (a result of the original Tower of Babel from the Bible, for those that need a refresher), we are all still connected, no matter how far or distant we are from each other.
Some of the film is hard follow exactly until things begin tying into each other. The first time we cut to Japan I was immediately wondering the connection (which was simultaneously the strongest link between the stories, as well as the weakest as the main character involved in Japan was not involved in the Morocco event at all) and the Mexico tale became rather absurd towards the end (there would have been no drama if they didn’t run the border patrol).
The films biggest failure is the attempt to tie all the events together. While it would have seemed incredulous if they were anymore linked than they already were, it seems that the film is more about four short stories that happen to revolve around the characters Brad Pitt (Richard) and Cate Blanchett (Susan) play. Speaking of which, even after watching the film and the second DVD in this set, I’m not entirely clear why their characters were in Morocco to begin with—kind of an odd place to vacation at; still, except for maybe Rinko Kikuchi as Chieko, the brunt of the drama in the film stems from Morocco. The plight of the children after they inadvertently shot Susan and the resulting scenes with her and Richard are some of the strongest in the film; in particular, Pitt really delves into his character in the hospital as he talks to his son on the phone for the first time since Susan was shot.
The aforementioned character of Chieko in Japan was also one of the stronger points of the film. Her extreme feeling of isolation in the film is a heavy hitter in the film, although her plight is slightly less intensive than the rest of the characters in the film. The tagline of the film is “Pain is universal…but so is hope” is sometimes lost in the Japan and Mexico sequences, but overall the film is worth watching, should you not have seen it by now.
One thing to point about the film, however is that is incredibly depressing. It’s hard to leave this film feeling happy, but there are certain films that you don’t mind feeling too bad about after watching it. While Babel was the big hit at the Oscars and the Cannes Festival, it is contrived in spots and sometimes incredulous; the time traveling back and forth between sequences can also be an issue for some, but it is interesting to see just how events are felt around the world and that no matter how small your pain or plight may be, there is someone else in the world feeling something similar or nearly identical to how you are at any given moment. In the end, Babel is about the universal emotions that all human beings feel, which, if you want to get philosophical, is what director Alejandro González Iñárritu attempted to do by naming this film “Babel”—though we now speak different languages, we were once, and still are, linked through what we feel. Recommended
Originally released on a barebones single disc release, Babel arrives on DVD once again in a 2-disc collector’s edition. Released likely to capitalize on the films award nominations and winnings, this two-disc doesn’t offer much up on top of what the past release did. Packaged in a set nearly identical to the first, the only difference is a gold border surrounding the one sheet.
The first disc in the set appears to be identical in content to the single disc release. Few special features (a few trailers) are here, but the video and audio for the set is identical. A strong transfer all around, the video is particularly clean and clear most of the time, with a bit of grain popping up now and then (a lot of it in the helicopter sequences) and a really nice surround mix that makes use of the surrounds frequently.
As for extras, there is only one and it is located entirely on the second disc. Entitled “Common Ground: Under Construction Notes”, this special feature is eighty-six minutes in length and is an exhaustive behind-the-scenes documentary on Babel. Constructed in the same way as the film, we flip back between cities and locations throughout the world in this extra and hear from the actors and crew at different points throughout the production. This extra is a very detailed record of the production of the film and goes so far as to include all of the trials and tribulations they had on the film, from a technical standpoint, to Alejandro González Iñárritu feeling worn down and all the way to the police in Japan shutting down the film production due to their slowing down traffic.
It’s a wonderful documentary and one that really should have been included on the original release for the DVD. Like the first release, this release contains no commentary—the Common Ground extra is the only thing different from the two releases and with its run time it more than makes up for anything else that anyone who enjoyed the film would expect to have found on the original DVD release. However, if you already own the first release, picking up this one is really dependant on whether or not you enjoyed the film to begin with and if so, how much. Die-hard fans will want to check out the documentary and DVD enthusiasts will no doubt buy this new two-disc regardless if they own the past or not.
Recommended if you enjoyed the film or didn’t pick up the past release.
Rent It if you own the previous release and only want to check out the extra.
Babel: Two-Disc Collector’s Edition will be available on DVD on September 25th.