Babel – A Larger Than Life Film
Few times in film history have reality and fiction collided as they do in Babel, Alejandro González Iñárritu¹s (“Amores Perros,” “21 Grams”) update of the Biblical myth that claims to be the origin of mankind’s lack of communication.
Shot over the course of a year in three continents and involving a ensemble multi-lingual cast lead by Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Koji Yakusho as well as a high percentage of non-professional actors from Morocco, Mexico and Japan, the film came to mean for all the people involved a physical and psychological journey very close to that portrayed by its characters.
The Heart of the Matter
At the center of Babel is the subject at the core of 21st century life: lack of communication. “On a conventional level (and conventions are sometimes useful to tell stories,) it can be said that Babel is about miscommunication, but for me, at the bottom line, the film is about how vulnerable and fragile we are as human beings and when a link is broken, it’s not the link that is rotten but the chain itself.” By this he doesn´t mean the obvious definition of language barriers.
A Real-Life Casting
To bring to life the array of diverse characters in Babel, Iñárritu knew he would need to assemble an entirely international cast of actors. He began with the American couple who find themselves the victims of a shooting while on vacation in the mountains of Morocco. For these roles, the director cast two of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors: box-office star Brad Pitt and Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett.
The Look of Babel
In a departure from his previous films, González Iñárritu sought to combine in Babel the hyper-realism esthetics of certain scenes, with dream-like sequences in the purest cinematic tradición that show the inner lives of the characters.
Key to achieving this was Oscar-nominated cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto’s mastering of visual narratives: “We wanted to visually represent the emotional journeys of the characters through the use of different film stocks and formats. We felt that subtle differences between the image quality of each story, like the texture of the film grain, the color saturation, and the sharpness of the backgrounds could help enhance the experience of being in different places geographically and emotionally,” says Prieto.
Each of the locations of BABEL has played a role in Alejandro González Iñárritu¹s life. The director took a life-changing trip to Morocco at age17, and from the minute he was first introduced to that country’s shimmering deserts and soulful mountains, he determined he would one day make a movie there. In this age of terrorism, the setting became even more relevant to Iñárritu’s story of mixed up communication and mistaken motives.
Babel As A First Hand Experience
Production on BABEL began in Morocco in May of 2005, then moved on to Mexico and Tokyo. In Morocco, the key was finding a location to stand in for a small, tight-knit enclave in the southern desert. Iñárritu found the remote Berber village of Taguenzalt. Located in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, the village, built into the rocky gorges of the Draa Valley, boasts ancient, adobe-style houses with rooms facing around an inner courtyard. “I liked that this village was very humble and very real,” comments Iñárritu. “The people in Taguenzalt were extremely nice and spiritual. And I mean really spiritual. I felt safe there.”