The destruction of our dreams: “Babylon”

Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi from Abbotsford, Australia, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“What did I just watch?”

That’s what I asked my friends once “Babylon” ended. I didn’t know what to expect going into this April 19 screening at the Cosford Cinema. Both of them — whom I was sandwiched between for the movie — were already massive fans of the movie.

“Babylon,” released on Dec. 23, 2022, is the most recent feature film from director Damien Chazelle, who is known for his films “Whiplash” and “La La Land.”

Though it was released amidst mixed reviews and has become a point of contention for movie critics. I have no doubts about my feelings for “Babylon.” One word describes it: marvelous.

The film portrays the transition from silent to sound films and focuses on the downfall of three film industry personalities. The characters are based on celebrities from the era. For example, Nellie LaRoy is inspired by Claire Bow, a famous silent movie star.

Over the course of the movie, Chazelle builds up to a crescendo of an ending that I’ve only ever seen director Stanley Kubrick do before. It’s tense, erratic and manic in those final moments. While the ending has been heavily criticized, there’s no other way to end it for the three main characters that it follows.

The performances from the three main stars were incredible. Margot Robbie portrayed a beautifully complex female character on the verge of a mental breakdown for most of the film. Diego Calva cemented himself as an upcomer with a lot of star power. Hollywood veteran Brad Pitt gave the performance of a lifetime with his portrayal of Jack Conrad.

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Even the comedic scenes, though odd at first glance, highlight just how destructive and bizarre the fame-obsessed “Babylon” world is. Even though it wasn’t a horror movie, select moments heightened the film’s mania.

In the final scenes, Robbie, Pitt and Li Jun Li were deeply haunting and poignant. They helped shape the course of the film to center its focus.

Moments that surprised me were the film’s representations of LGBTQ+ relationships. Though not the center focus, the queer characters feel three-dimensional.

The movie’s soundtrack and set design are striking and set the distinct vision that Chazelle puts forth throughout the film, one of glitz and glamor.

It would be a mistake not to note Tobey Maguire, who acted and served as executive producer on this film. He provides one of the most absolutely insane performances I’ve ever seen someone do and I loved every single second of it.

“Babylon” is not a film for everyone. Its intense atmosphere and legion of film references may only be accessible to a particular group of people, but those who love cinema will appreciate its beauty and deeply human outlook.

This film has the potential to become a cult classic, one that will inspire future generations of filmmakers.

Rating: 5/5