If You Want to Be Understood, Listen

From the American Heritage Dictionary, BABEL means ‘a scene of noise and confusion’. And it was definitely related to the plot which is quite confusing. Complicated is the perfect word for this movie. It is written by Guillermo Arriaga, who brought up a brilliant idea of compiling four different stories and places. Amazingly the stories and places are suddenly connected to each other. Shortly I guess Arriaga wants to show the clinical meaning of how communication really important.

Firstly it showed a life in Morocco, a dessert country which could be defined as a Muslim country. From here, everything began. There is a man named Hassan Ibrahim who was given a powerful rifle by a Japanese man named Yasujiro. The rifle then was sold to Abdullah, also a Moroccan. It was used by Abdullah’s sons to kill jackals which were going to eat their goats. Then, tragedy started when the boys, Ahmed and Yussef, were joking around shooting a bus to check the rifle. It did stop. Unfortunately, the bullet hits an American tourist, Susan, who was visiting Morocco along with her husband, Richard.

Susan and Richard is another story. They have their own marriage problems which made, I guess, they travelled to Morocco. They have two children, Debbie and Mike, who was being left to a Mexican nanny, Amelia, in San Diego. Another problem appears when Amelia had to be in Mexico to attend her son’s wedding but neither Richard nor Susan could come to replace her. So she decided to take both Debbie and Mike travelling to Mexico, along with her nephew, Santiago, who drove the car. It looked like everything seemed pretty well in Mexico. But, when they decided to return to San Diego, conflicts arrived. A border crossing officer stopped the car after he suspected something was wrong regarding the blonde kids and Mexicans in the car.

Then the scene about a deaf Japanese teenager, Chieko, appears. Nothing in particular to the story, anyway, but I found out that Chieko is the daughter of Yasujiro, the man who gave Hassan Ibrahim the rifle. See? It’s a rounded plot.

How Communication is Important

I have found some scene that really needs a good communication in terms of avoiding some effects in this movie. First, when Santiago discovered they were being interrogated by the border crossing officer, he realized that they were in a trouble. But, in a stressful circumstance, Santiago decided to runaway and pulled the gas through the darkness.

Well, if both Santiago and the border crossing officer could have a conversation to talk and to be heard, I guess he would not runaway. Santiago was feeling guilty and scared, so he decided to run in panic. Then the officer realized then fully believed they were guilty; not to mention other officers didn’t want to hear any reason from Amelia to defend herself that she wasn’t guilty.

Then, there was a deaf Japanese teenage girl. I think this girl suffered a lot since she couldn’t say anything in order to express what she felt. She was ordinary girl, but often lost temper in several ways. This girl, Chieko, is selfish. She didn’t care what it takes to other people who don’t understand her. She cared only about herself: if she didn’t like it, she will fight.

I guess, the tagline of this movie about listening others in order to be understood, is highly pointed on her. Well, no, she couldn’t listen. But for me, all she was doing is more expecting people to understand her but less trying to feel others. Yes, she was under-pressure of being lonely in this world after her mother, the only one cares her, died. But the way she expressed herself is totally out of control. She had no attention at all to what others might think of her.

Take a look when she caught Haruki, the boy she had crushed with, kissed her friend. Desperate, she asked Detective Kenji to come to the apartment in order to talk about her mother’s case. Then suddenly, she was naked.  There is a big question mark in my head about what she had done. Why? Did she suffered that much?

Then, the main conflict they have had here is when the Moroccan police officers found out that the suspect they have been searching for is a kid. The chief Moroccan police was like, ‘It was just a kid we have been searching for?’ Definitely, he got surprised since everyone in the world (thanks for the press) claimed this as a terrorism attack.

So, we see here, when there was a communication between Yussef along with his father and the Moroccan police officers, a good explanation could define everything cleared that the accident was caused by children’s joke. Moreover, Ahmed doesn’t have to die, though.

This is also to prevent public’s hypotheses about terrorism attack. But, this movie was like telling me that how fast people (in this case, journalists and government in the U.S.) are claiming an accident happened in Central East countries (Muslim countries) to be a terrorism attack. I could see how scared those American tourists being surrounded by Moroccans. The tourists are just instantly having negative thinking when they were there.

I found another meaning about listening others in order to be understood in this area. Sometimes, when you were claimed some people are bad, you tent not to hear any positive opinions about them; because in your mind they are already bad, no matter what. That was what happened with the American tourists to the Moroccans. They were looking Moroccans like they were something scaring (or disgusting). All they care were just their own opinion; they don’t want to care if Moroccans could help them. In the movie we could see that there was some political conflict between American and Moroccan government. Since journalists reported that there was a terrorism attack in Morocco, Moroccan government are trying to defend themselves by stating publicly about there was no terrorists in Morocco.

And, we should not forget about how isolated Tazarine was and how Richard was so hard to communicate to his family or his embassy. As a result, before they knew that Susan was hurt in her shoulder, journalists were made a story as if she was dying. So, public opinions had been created.

Overall, we could see how those different stories, scene, and settings are all related because of journalists. They really played a role here. Journalists are a real important in the real life. Once they have got reported a wrong one, public opinions were created, and there must be sides that were having advantages and disadvantages. So, in my opinion, that was totally not correct when reporting only for one side. Theoretically, a good journalism is to report a thing in many different ways, so it could minimize the gap between sides.

At the end, this movie showed a great regret to miss a good communication: Moroccan police officers that caught a little boy for their country’s terrorism issue, Amelia who had been departed because Santiago and the border crossing officers don’t talk and listen to each other, Chieko who had to be naked so people around her understand what she wanted. It’s now a fact that listening is much more harder than talking.


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