Babel: Imagining Babel

Each of the locations of BABEL has played a role in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s life. The director took a life-changing trip to Morocco at age 17, 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 Inarritu’s story of mixed up communication and mistaken motives.

Guillermo brought the argument of the two Moroccan boys to the beginning of the project. It was so powerful, beautiful and simple at the same time that it made it unique. It was first set in Tunisia but I knew I had to make it in this African-Mediterranean corner.”

Similarly, the director’s previous visits to Japan inspired him to commit to returning one day with a movie camera. In 2003, he went to that country to promote “21 Grams”, and visited a place called Hakone, a landmark mountain with steaming thermal waters that struck him as magical. The image of an old man taking care with love and dignity, of a mentally-retarded adolescent Japanese girl, while climbing up the Hakone mountain had such a powerful effect on him that it led to the idea of telling the story of a relationship between one isolated person and another. Later on, the strange and constant appearance of deaf people in that same trip, plus an erotic dream that he had of a deaf teenager in the dentist’s office was the seed of the Japanese story,

Another weighty influence on Inarritu as he forged BABEL was his own recent move from his former home in Mexico City to the United States. Inarritu knew he wanted to set one of his stories against the deadly and highly contentious border between the U.S. and Mexico. “Being an immigrant myself, I gained a clearer perspective of myself, my country and my own work. I also now understand what it feels like being a Third World citizen living in the First World country, and the complexity of its significance.”