Babel makes Japan ill

Japan warned over Babel sickness

Hollywood film Babel could make viewers ill, according to its Japanese distributor which has taken out newspaper adverts to warn cinema-goers. About 15 people have complained of feeling sick while watching the film since it opened in Japan last week.

The concerns are thought to centre on a scene featuring Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi in a nightclub.

Distributor Gaga Communications has warned it features “highly stimulating effects” such as strobe lighting.

The company has placed warnings about the Oscar-nominated film in national newspapers, on their website and has also requested it to be displayed on posters at about 300 cinemas.

Cinema managers have also reported people falling ill.

The scene where Kikuchi, playing a high school girl dancing in a club with flashing and swirling lights, left five women feeling sick at at the Midland Square Cinema in city of Nagoya.

Manager Toshiyuki Ichiji told the AFP news agency said they were warning customers about the film.

“We are handing out a handbill advising customers not to focus on the screen but to look away appropriately during the scene,” he said.

At another cinema in Yokkaichi, an elderly man needed time to rest and recover from sickness after watching the film.

Manager Takashi Hattori said he was preparing to issue a health warning to viewers.

Babel, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, has been a media sensation in Japan, as Kikuchi was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as a deaf schoolgirl who cannot speak.

At first I thought the headline referred to moviegoers getting sick after seeing the final scene involving Kikuchi’s character and the detective she tries to seduce. Then I thought maybe it was the finale that also involved Kukuchi’s character and the father that disturbed Japanese audiences. Apparently, I was wrong on both counts despite those being the most disturbing set of events that took place of the four storylines in Babel. It’s funny how this warning comes from a film distributor called Gaga Communications…

Turns out, it was the scene in Tokyo where they go meet guys and hang out in a nightclub after the girls drink and consume large amounts of alcohol and drugs. If you watched the film, you will understand the underlying theme are the connections among separate lives and the idea that one person’s action can set off a serious of events that touch lives. Both Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza did a fine job in the film convincing us of the frustrations of a deaf-mute schoolgirl to a Mexican nanny that cares for her children and those of her employer. The only overrated performance came from Brad Pitt, who simply spent 2 hours acting like an “Emo Kid” in Morocco.

I actually thought Babel had a shot at winning the Best Picture at the Oscar because it was a movie about people and it gave viewers an idea of the world outside America. Again I was wrong since it was an American remake of “Infernal Affairs” with a twist ending that won the Oscar for Best Picture. The year 2006 was really a great year for movies ranging from Batman Begins, Babel, The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, Borat, Casino Royale, Children of Men, An Inconvenient Truth, Little Miss Sunshine, Letters from Iwo Jima, and even Flags of Our Fathers. I still have yet to see Dreamgirls, which was loosely based on Diana Ross and The Supremes, Happy Feet and Pan’s Labyrinth, which are also great films from last year.

If regular Japanese taxpayers are getting sick from watching Babel in theatres using conventional projectors, I can only imagine what would happen if Babel was seen on 1080p definition on Blu-ray. I am guessing it may be a similar reaction to what happened when Pokemon had that episode that sent Japanese kids to the hospital for epileptic seizures.


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