Artykuł pochodzi z pisma "Guardian"


The Tower of Babel, iconically painted by Pieter Brueghel the Elder in the 16th century, forgettably re-created by John Huston in his film The Bible, is - as recorded in the first nine verses of Genesis, Chapter XI - one of the founding myths of Judaeo-Christian civilisation. It's a brutal tale of God's anger over the hubris of a united humanity's attempt to build a tower whose top might reach heaven. To punish His own creations, He scattered them to the four corners of the earth and 'confounded their language, that they may not understand each other's speech'. During the first third of the 20th century the silent cinema went some way towards the forging of a universal, unifying art which was destroyed by the coming of sound. So the film Babel, which concerns itself with what divides and unites mankind, unfolds in four languages - English, Spanish, Arabic and Japanese.
The Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and his scriptwriter Guillermo Arriaga are noted for the multiple overlapping stories of their previous collaborations, Amores perros and 21 Grams (a technique Arriaga was also to employ in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada). In Babel they link three continents and four families. Their theme is a variation on the so-called butterfly effect by which everything in the world is mysteriously, or scientifically, linked. Thus an insect fluttering its wings in the Amazon Basin can initiate a chain of events that ends in a hurricane in the Indian Ocean.
Here, a gun fired more or less at random with no purpose other than to test how far a bullet might go has consequences in Morocco, the United States, Mexico and Japan. The weapon is an American .270 Winchester hunting rifle that has gone from the States to Japan then come into the hands of an elderly Arab in a remote corner of southern Morocco. A neighbour buys the gun to kill jackals threatening his goats. While out tending the family herd, his young sons take pot shots, one of them at a distant tourist bus in the valley below them, not expecting to hit anything. But an American woman is seriously wounded and the repercussions are profound.
Last year, Andrew Niccol's film about the arms trade, Lord of War, began with a brilliant opening sequence that follows a bullet from a Russian factory as it passes through various hands until it blows a hole between the eyes of a child in Africa. Babel, however, is not, I think, trying to make yet another assault on gun culture and the armaments industry. The aim is to show what unites people through their natures and aspirations and what divides them through class, culture, politics, the global economy and the terrible gap in communication.
The American victim of the gunshot wound is Susan (Cate Blanchett), travelling in Morocco with her husband Richard (Brad Pitt). They're an affluent, good-looking, middle-class couple who left their two small children in San Diego to make this journey into the Sahara. The desert reflects their spiritual emptiness and they inevitably remind us of Port and Kit Moresby in Paul Bowles's The Sheltering Sky who are similarly exposed to life and death in North Africa. Their children are in the capable hands of a loyal, middle-aged Mexican maid, Amelia (Adriana Barraza), who, unable to find someone else to care for them, takes them with her to a family wedding south of the border. Meanwhile, seemingly unconnected to the two other strands, a widowed Japanese businessman is having trouble with his rebellious daughter Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi), an attractive deaf-mute schoolgirl troubled by her burgeoning womanhood. It turns out that the link resides in a generous (but tainted) gift to a guide at the end of a hunting expedition.
The film unfolds, non-chronologically, in some 24 chapters, and we are left, as with a number of recent movies, to compose the narrative in our heads. For instance, the second chapter has the Hispanic maid receive news on the phone of the events in Morocco, but this is before we have even seen Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. It isn't until the penultimate chapter that we're present in Casablanca to see Pitt make the call home.
Taking in this cleverly contrived story, we steadily become aware of the shared neglect, innocence and playfulness of the two Moroccan boys, the girl in Tokyo and the pre-teenagers in San Diego. Moreover, while the movie seems to be sending out an ecumenically bland message about us all being part of mankind, and not sending to ask for whom the bell tolls, it is evident that some men's deaths are more significant than others, and indeed that America is the bell-ringer. The immediate assumption is that the bullet has been fired by a terrorist, and the European tourists panic and flee. A crisis is created, worldwide interest aroused. But whereas, partly by nature, partly by social deference, the authorities are courteous and helpful in their treatment of middle-class citizens, the peasants in Morocco are brutally ill-treated by their own police, and the Mexicans at the US border are viewed with contempt and suspicion.
The global village depicted in Babel is a harsh, unfair place. Tourism and mass media have done little to improve mutual respect and understanding. The film does not state this directly, but it dramatises it in a powerful and moving fashion. The task of re-creating that human unity God destroyed when the Tower of Babel was being built is probably too great, or has been too long neglected. Some will think this film glib and overly schematic. I found it an impressive, beautifully acted work with a tragic sense of life. The formality of its structure controls a seething anger.

affluent- zamożny
armaments industry- przemysł zbrojeniowy
assault- atak
assumption- założenie
at random- na chybił trafił
attempt- próba
bland- dobrotliwy; mdły
burgeon- rozkwitać
butterfly effect- efekt motyla
capable- zdolny, pojętny, zręczny
concern- dotyczyć, mieć związek
confound- mieszać, plątać, gmatwać
contempt- pogarda
contrive- obmyślać, wymyślać
courteous- grzeczny, uprzejmy
deaf-mute- głuchoniemy
deference- poważanie, szacunek
depict- przedstawiać
ecumenically - ekumenicznie
expose- wystawiać na
fluttering- trzepot
forging- kuć; podrabiać
glib- gładki, elokwentny, niewiarygodny
hubris- pycha, duma
inevitably - w sposób nieunikniony
initiate- inicjować, zaczynać
innocence- niewinność
link- łączyć, wiązać
mankind- ludzkość
meanwhile- w międzyczasie
multiple- wielokrotny, wieloraki, złożony
mutual- wzajemny
neglect- zaniedbywać
overlapping- pokrywające się, zachodzące jeden na drugi
penultimate- przedostatni
pot shot- strzał na chybił trafił
previous- poprzedni
profound- doniosły
remind- przypominać
remote- odległy
repercussions- reperkusje
reside (in)- znajdowac się w
scatter- rozpraszać
seemingly- pozornie
seething- kipiący, wrzący
sequence- sekwencja
significant- znaczny, znaczący, ważny
so-called- tak zwany
strand- wątek
tainted- skażony, zanieczyszczony
tend- opiekować się, doglądać
toll- bić, dzwonić
unconnected- niepowiązany
unfold- rozwijać się, odsłaniać
womanhood- kobiecość

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