Babylon Movie Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Director Damien Chazelle is strongly associated with musicals by many viewers, although there are only two of them in his filmography. This is the debut “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench” and the well-known “La La Land”, which cemented Chazelle’s status as a director of musical films. Against this background, the audience forgets that “Obsession” is not a musical, but a psychological drama about music. Chazelle also directed the biographical drama “First Man” about Neil Armstrong.

“Babylon” can also be mistaken for a musical, because there are enough musical scenes in it. But in fact, this is an extremely rich and complex confession of a one-sided love for cinema. How it turned out – read in the review below.


Genre historical drama
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Starring Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Giovan Adepo, Li Jun Li, Tobey Maguire
Premiere cinemas
Release year 2023
IMDb site

The events of the film start in the 20s, when Hollywood was experiencing the peak of the popularity of silent cinema. The plot begins with a luxurious Hollywood party, to get to which is the limit of dreams for many. The party is filled with alcohol, drugs, sexual perversions and more extravagant displays of hedonism. It is she who brings together the trio of main characters.

One of the lower-ranking organizers, Manny Torres (Diego Calva), makes sure that all the guests are happy. But his attention is diverted by the girl Nellie Laroy (Margot Robbie), who already considers herself an actress, even though she has no role. Manny and Nellie share a sublime love for cinematography, and the boy also falls in love with a new acquaintance.

As a result of the party, Nellie receives an invitation to the set to replace an actress who is unable to work due to a drug overdose. And Manny is forced to bring drunk Hollywood star Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt) to the house, thanks to which he will be able to personally participate in the filming as an assistant the next day.

Review of the movie Babylon

From the very first scenes, the film does not particularly go down well with the audience. If “La La Land” immediately plunged into a sublime romantic atmosphere, and “Obsession” into an almost chamber psychological tension, then “Babylon” begins with a scene in which an elephant defecates on a person. Moreover, everything is depicted quite graphically. Be prepared that there will be plenty of similar moments in the film. Damien is not shy about showing disgusting moments, but believe me, they are not here exclusively for the sake of provocation.

Dirt and disgust are transformed in the hands of the director into a tool, and one of many with which he expresses his protest against Hollywood customs and traditions. Hollywood in Damien’s picture is depicted as the same Babylon that is about to collapse — and no one will even remember it. The name itself also refers to the book “Hollywood Babylon” by Kenneth Anger, which is devoted to the not so favorable side of the life of stars.

But popularity, money and power have always attracted people, and “Babylon” clearly shows that Hollywood, even with the infinity of its rot, drives talented and capable people crazy. Only here and under such conditions, you can strive for a dream in very different ways.

Review of the movie Babylon

The storylines of Manny and Nellie, which are inextricably linked, but still fundamentally different, work on this idea. Manny is a Mexican immigrant who dreams of doing anything on set to touch the magic of cinema. And this “whatever” very often goes against simple humanity and moral and ethical norms.

The guy is ready to forget about his family, harm the happiness of a loved one and betray his loyal friends in order to leave his mark in the “golden era of Hollywood”. And this despite the fact that he achieves everything mostly with titanic efforts, not sparing himself in anything. But all the same, the boy gradually dissolves in Hollywood intrigues, becoming an inseparable part of them. Which, by the way, is emphasized by the somewhat worn-out trope “the character changes his hairstyle to a more severe one.”

With Nelly, the situation is completely different. She is incredibly talented by nature and easily finds an approach to even the most difficult people. But at the same time, she never loses herself. The girl clearly stands out against the background of classic “Hollywood stars”, in any environment she looks self-sufficient and true to herself. But it is the desire to be yourself that gradually destroys Laroy’s career.

Manny and Nellie’s relationship is doomed from the start, as the viewer will understand this from their very first scene together. They are like an astronomer and a star, which are forever connected and to some extent cannot exist without each other. But they will never be together. And that’s why it’s more and more painful to follow the main characters as the plot progresses.

Jack Conrad’s storyline stands for morality and a kind of supervision of the couple’s life. It would seem that you are being shown a person who has achieved everything in life. He is rich, successful, handsome, surrounded by the most powerful people and the most beautiful women. But even such a person, to whom everything seems to be incredibly easy, has his doubts and reasons to be afraid.

Review of the movie Babylon

Konrad is the apotheosis of the conflict between the pretended glitz of Hollywood and the desire for true creativity. Because of him, Chazelle no longer just talks to the viewer – he shouts about everything that bothers him in the modern American film industry. And he comes to completely disappointing conclusions.

“Babylon” is not limited to Manny, Nellie and Jack. This is another point that distinguishes the movie from “La La Land” and “Obsession”. During its three hours of running time, “Babylon” manages to cover a wide variety of topics, and sometimes quite unexpected ones. For example, the moral and commercial side of same-sex relationships of public people.

Because of this, the cinema may seem difficult and even overloaded to some. There are also reviews that three hours is too much for such a story. And there is some truth in this. Individual storylines do not get proper development, and some moments are thrown out of the main mood.

However, even with this arrangement, absolutely every element works for the central essence of “Babylon”, which will be understood only after the traditional epilogue for Chazelle (and it will surely tear you to pieces). The director here confesses his boundless love for cinema, but at the same time fierce hatred for everything that surrounds this cinema for many decades. And each scene is one of Chazelle’s sparks of hatred, able to ignite a fire in hearts.

Such a kaleidoscopic approach to the plot structure made it possible to realize several interesting pranks. The story of “Babylon” unfolds over several years – and each chronological leap feels stylistically new. The story of actors and entire teams who could not adapt to the advent of the era of sound cinema is presented from a variety of angles and through sometimes absolutely incredible directorial and cinematographic techniques.

Chazelle even uses moments of silence, punctuated by the breathing, coughing, and creaking of seats in the actual movie theater around you, to heighten the film’s emotional impact on the audience. In the finale, you completely dissolve into the story, because it turns into a metacommentary on the modern culture of watching movies. And in addition, there is also a sad parable about a person who left his mark in the history of cinema, but the same history crushed him.

Review of the movie Babylon

There is no shortage of more experimental, almost avant-garde moments in Babylon. For example, one of the segments near the end is shot entirely in the style of David Lynch’s Highway to Nowhere. This is hinted at by the camera work, the color correction, the general production, the antagonist, and even the soundtrack in the style of Nine Inch Nails. You absolutely do not expect this from the film, but this scene feels all the more pleasant.

And separately, someone will remember one of the dialogues inside the film, dedicated to the relationship between critics and creators. It contains arguments at the level of “do at least something yourself, and only then criticize.” And something like this will surely resonate with some of you, dear readers.

In “Babylon” there is too much of everything, because of which sometimes the movie overflows to the brim, almost approaching the stage of spiritual asphyxiation. But it is all the more pleasant when all topics finally find their place in the soul of the viewer. Perhaps it will not happen immediately after viewing and not after a few days. However, the more powerful the effect of awareness.

“Babylon” is also stunningly filmed, has a chic look and sounds absolutely foreign. Justin Hurwitz, with whom Chazelle works far from the first time, has once again created melodies that make you want to start a wild dance and share your innermost secrets in equal measure.

In “Babylon” you can find minuses without much effort. This is a somewhat infantile and naive film that chooses the path of “saying about many things in many ways”, but does not always successfully cope with this task. You may have questions about the structure, pace, and script. Hence the huge spread of critics’ opinions.

But I absolutely do not want to do something like that. Because when the credits of the movie end (and there is a high probability that you will sit through them until the end, even if there is no scene after the credits in the movie), something in your soul will be torn, broken or changed in some incredible way.

This is why cinema exists.

Pros: Perfect all-star acting; sharp and piercing metacommentaries on the state of modern cinema; an outstanding production that is not afraid to be avant-garde and daring; great music that you definitely want to add to your tracklist; the spirit of “real cinema”, which many fans of cinema miss today Cons: somewhat unstructured story, confusion of individual ideas of the film Conclusion:

The failure of “Babylon” at the box office, which has already happened, is a tragedy as unfortunate as it is simple. After all, today it is difficult to sell a three-hour movie to the mass audience, which, moreover, does not entertain too much, but rather oppresses and causes uneasy thoughts. But that is the greatness of “Babylon”. This is a sincere confession of love for real cinema, which in itself is real cinema.

It is worth giving it a chance, if only out of respect for the work of all people who have been continuously losing themselves for years, so that you can forget about the world’s problems for one and a half to two hours in the pleasant illusion of cinema. In an illusion that is sometimes more real than reality itself

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