When Babel hit theaters in 2006, it hit the movie-going world like a surprising and critically acclaimed storm. The movie’s three distinct yet connected stories each told an emotional tale that few people saw coming, and the Golden Globes and Academy Awards both recognized the film with a Best Picture award and nomination, respectively. Yet the movie’s original DVD release met with much less acclaim. In a world of DVD bonus features, the first Babel DVD included little more than the movie itself and its theatrical trailer. The Two-Disc Collector’s Edition, which hits stores today, looks to fix that little oversight.
The first disc in the Babel Two-Disc Collector’s Edition is comprised of the full-length film itself. No bonuses, no special goodies, just an excellent movie. The movie follows the stories of three disparate families, each of whom has a common theme of communication and relationships. In the first story, a husband (played by Brad Pitt) and wife (played by Cate Blanchett) struggle for their literal and figurative survival after the wife is shot in the shoulder while on a tour of Morocco. While trying urgently to find medical care for his wife, Pitt calls their nanny to ask if she can watch the kids just a little bit longer. This introduces the second story, that of the nanny, who after agreeing to watch the kids foolishly “smuggles” them to Mexico so she can attend her son’s wedding. Things go decidedly south from there (no pun intended), and the drama continues to rise. In the third story, viewers follow the tale of a deaf mute struggling to find her place in a bustling Tokyo society.
Although each story is distinct, they collectively address a variety of themes, from relationships and communication to cultural acceptance and terrorism. The most interesting part about the compilation, though, is that different viewers will take different lessons from each tale, in part because the stories each hit on such unique levels. With a movie this powerful, it’s almost not surprising that Babel’s initial release didn’t warrant any bonus features.
It’s ironic, then, that the second disc in the Babel Two-Disc Collector’s Edition shows viewers just how much the really did miss out on the first time around. This second disk is nothing but bonus feature…one of them, to be exact. But much like the movie, this solitary bonus feature is powerful enough to make up for the lack of any additional. Titled “Common Ground: Under Construction Notes” (1:27:48 in length), this bonus feature is a feature-length documentary about the film’s production. Notice the use of the term “documentary” rather than “Making Of” feature; that’s because the feature is so in-depth.
Rather than a series of happy post-production interviews with the cast and staff, Common Ground is a personal video shot by the director (Alejandro Inarritu) that documents the struggles of producing a movie not only with such distinct plotlines, but that takes place in such distinct locations. From actor miscommunications and struggles to the literal struggles of filming a movie in so many unique locales, Common Ground really gives an unprecedented inside look at what it really takes to put a feature-length film together. In essence, it’s not just a documentary about making Babel; it’s a documentary about making movies in general.
As intense as Babel was in the theaters, its original DVD release left something to be desired for the modern DVD-owning crowd. This newest Two-Disc Collector’s Edition, though, fixes all that — and then some. Generally the phrase “one bonus feature” draws scoffs and eyebrow raises, but in the case of Babel, this Collector’s Edition really is just that: a movie and documentary both worth adding to the collection.
- Overall: 9
- Created with an artistic eye and with film connoisseurs in mind, the Babel Two-Disc Collector’s Edition does justice to such a critically acclaimed movie.
— Jonas Allen