NOTE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
It seems to me that almost everyone (except me of course) has misunderstood Babel. Personally, I found it to be a very dark and disturbing film. Note that (contrary to popular opinion) the plot structure of Babel is NOT the same as in films such as Crash where several plot lines play out in parallel, with occasional intersections of characters and events. Babel uses a linear plot structure that implies causation. A metaphysical moral order is depicted in which one bad event causes another bad event, and then another, like ricocheting billiard balls, playing out over the surface of the globe.
Here is the sequence in which certain critical events happened in “world time”: 1) A mother in Japan commits suicide with a gun leaving a deaf daughter and a husband behind, 2) The father gives away a gun as a gift to a Moroccan guide (possibly the same gun used in the suicide?), and the gun ends up in the hand of a Moroccan child. 3) This child shoots an American woman traveling on a tour bus, 4) The nanny who is watching the American woman’s children back in the USA is forced to continue being their caretaker for a few extra days even though she does not want to do so because her son is getting married in Mexico, 5) The nanny takes the children, without permission, to the wedding in Mexico, and in the course of some dramatic events during the return home, loses the children in the desert, 6) The children in the desert do not die, but are rescued.
So what started this chain reaction? And what caused it to suddenly stop, allowing the American children to survive rather than being left to die in the desert? These events are not depicted directly in the movie and must be inferred. However, the director/screenwriter provide an overwhelming number of clues, all of which point to only one reasonable inference. The triggering evil event was incest by the Japanese father with his daughter, and only when this hideous secret was exposed (the mechanism being a letter written by the daughter to a police officer) was the chain reaction of evil stopped in its (desert) tracks.
I could spend paragraphs explicating the evidence for this inference, but all I will do here is present a few examples. I invite anyone skeptical of my interpretation to go back and re-view the movie watching for the clues about this incestuous theme that are obvious from beginning to end once one starts looking for them. Consider the opening scene in which we are introduced to the Japanese girl. What is revealed in this scene is that the Japanese girl is psychologically about ready to explode over a situation in which an adult who is supposed to be responsible for enforcing the rules properly does not do so. What prior events in her life history could have brought her to that psychological boiling point? Consider the aggressive, hostile response of the same Japanese girl in exposing herself in the nightclub following dialog that includes a crude joke about “having sex with your father”. Consider the inappropriate sexual come-ons to adult males including the dentist and the police officer (behaviors that would cause any psychologist evaluating this girl to immediately be suspicious about potential sexual abuse). Note that the gun when it travels to Morocco ends up in the hands of a child who is himself engaged in a mild form of incestuous behavior in the form of voyeurism with his sister. Note the name of the film: Babel, a shorthand for Babylonia, a place the book of Revelations in the Bible exhorts believers to “flee from” because of activities such as incest that are taking place there. Finally, forget about the specifics of the film Babel for a moment, and answer the following multiple choice question in a Film 101 class: Your are watching a scene in a movie and a young girl standing naked on a balcony is approached by an older man. When he reaches her side, they hold hands. Your immediate interpretation of what is likely being depicted filmatically by this scene is: a) This is a sentimental depiction of the behavior expected between a caring father and his daughter, or b) This is a depiction of two lovers.