Image Source: Tout Le Cine
You can hit me in the head for being a decade late into seeing “Lost In Translation,” though, a gem like this remains as timeless and elegant as ever. Its minimalist nature is sure to spark some sweet spot inside of you, as it’s a movie of feeling and interaction when all is–literally–lost in translation.
Towards the end of the film, we see Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson saying goodbye at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. Words refuse to come out as they stand inches apart, searching each other’s eyes. We feel longing, regret, and desire pass between them. No one acts on it, as their quiet tension spreads on ’til the end.
Perhaps that’s Sofia Coppola’s trademark style. She creates an “atmosphere and feeling [of] people just observing life.” Meaning is found beyond word, as two characters seek some sort of connection in the foreign environment they find themselves in.
As Charlotte’s (Scarlett Johansson) natural curiosity and creeping identity-crisis take over her as her photographer-of-a-husband whisks his life away with ditzy actresses, Bob Harris (Bill Murray) treads on with his movie-work while he is away from his wife and kids. In a way, both neglected souls find that their loneliness draws them together. We find that the short, chance connections one finds–apart from the safety nets of home and limitations of character–are forgotten as these characters become vulnerable and, in turn, open up to each other.
It is striking to find that ScarJo was only 18 when she filmed this role. She plays the 25-year-old Yale graduate student so believably and, perhaps it was Charlotte’s simplicity and curiosity that ScarJo’s novice benefitted from.
Coppola says Charlotte was conceived as someone who felt she could not relate to anyone, as we often find her wandering into the city looking for something, only to find that she is incapable of grasping anything. She garnishes her hotel room with origami decorations in hopes of making this foreign place a “home” for her. She indulgently smokes and quietly goes off into her days finding any sort of simple joy. Though, as Charlotte is often seen looking outside her hotel window, the picture of loneliness Coppola paints is quite beautiful.
Image Source: The Transcontinental Affair
“I like to let things play out,” Coppola says. “I like to show instead of tell. I didn’t even want to have the characters talk about themselves, I just wanted to let things unfold. What you don’t see is so much more powerful than what you do.”
This patient, careful and effective restraint is something that makes Coppola special. She is able to execute these melodramas in ways that others can easily make corny, overacted, or overly-sentimental. She makes her characters seem believable in everything they do–from the way they interact to the way they look at each other–as nothing seems to disrupt the silent moments in this film. The focus is always there.
The two also find each other keep coming back to each other–the glances across the dinner hall; the occasional insomniac nights–and, all throughout, he doesn’t flirt with her as she doesn’t flirt with him. There are no sexual hints. Only looks and glances and mutual comfort.
Perhaps the stand-out, definitive moment in this film is the karaoke scene in which Bob and Charlotte choose songs they use to define where the other stands. As ScarJo, in her frosted-pink wig, struggles and lets loose to “Brass In Pocket,” Coppola catches Murray endearingly letting off a wisp of a smile. You feel a connection breed within the two, as the two who seek experience and lack there-of find simple, silly solace in each other. She was that unexpected dream of an uncomplicated future for him, as he a sign of complete understanding and joy for her.
“Those moments are so important, ” Coppola goes on, “when you connect to someone. People are always so busy, so distracted. When you can make a connection and find an understanding with someone, it’s something you take with you forever.”
And so, when moments and movies like these find a special place in your heart, reminding you of your own nature, your own loneliness, your seeking experience and joy in connection in all places just to find that nothing can quite seem to suffice… There’s something painstakingly, and utterly beautiful about it.
You may let off a smoke. You might ask for a glass of whiskey. Heck, you might even sing some silly 80’s song in a frosted-pink wig. It might be those cups of coffee or love-sessions with that guitar-lover that can set some ease. But, in the end, we all crave interaction. And sometimes you don’t ever really need to say anything at all to form it.
Image Source: Lost In Translation, Roger Ebert
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