Sunday, May 9, 2010

Film Yap: Babies

There was a level of nervousness going into a movie like Babies. The advertising campaign suggested that this movie might just be the big screen adaptation of an adorable YouTube video. Could there really be a full-length movie of…babies? The answer is yes and no.

Director Thomas Balmes found four babies and decided to cover them for an entire year. Two boys and two girls. There is Ponijao from Namibia; Mari from Tokyo; Bayar from Mongolia; Hattie from San Francisco. The movie is bold in that there is no narration or really even dialog. There are only a few phrases muttered on screen, most of which are not translated.

The film is interested in showing you these images and it is up to the audience to decide whether there is any insight. What I found that babies, by themselves, primarily range from curious, hungry, frustrated, and sleepy. Like puppies, while they experience these emotions they can be precious. That focus can only last too long before most people would get bored.

Thus clever editing saves the movie. Again, there is no narration but the film jumps between these cultures to show comparisons and contrasts to their lifestyles. The film explores—that may be too strong of a word—these babies interacting with animals, their own bodies, food and siblings. The strongest part of this movie is the look at the other environments. They jump from seeing Hattie playing around a vacuum cleaner to Ponijao in the middle of the dirt. Ponijao is often seen surrounded by flies and dirt. There’s never any doubt on the well being of the babies; there are different worlds out there.

The movie is technically very well made. There are some really great shots that required patience and creativity. In all regards, this is the best movie that could be made with this premise but unfortunately the premise still isn’t that great. There may be a little more going on, but it’s not enough. Even the best scenes are not that memorable. Any attempt to explain one of them will just make them sound like an abstract David Lynch scene. For example, there is a scene when one of the babies—perhaps Hattie—is sitting and looking bored while sitting next to a cat playing with a wire. That’s it.

The movie is fighting for relevancy. While watching, it is often enjoyable but it won’t last very long. At the end of the day, it’s just…babies.

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