Lost in Translation
Directed and written by Sofia Coppola
★ Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson
Two people meet and spend a short time together, feeling they have known each other for life. And after that time is over, the two part and carry on with their respective lives, perhaps never to meet again.
Most people have experienced a situation like this, meeting someone and instantly feeling a special connection, sharing a few incomparable moments together, and afterwards having to leave this person. Personally, I have met a few people on those accounts, though never for a time as long as in the film, and my personal experiences haven’t been as intense as those in the movie.
Still, watching Lost in Translation broke my heart.
It is the feeling of something that could have been, paired with the probability that it couldn't have, that adds up to a feeling of great happiness and at the same great sadness. I should warn readers now, that there will be a few spoilers from now on. When Bill Murray aka Bob Harris and Scarlett Johansson aka Charlotte meet for the supposedly last time and kiss for the supposedly first time on the streets of Tokyo, what was your reaction? Did you feel happy or sad? Or both?
Most probably the latter. It was the moment that convinced me of two things: firstly, Sofia Coppola being a genius; secondly, this film being one of her best, if not her best work. Although The Virgin Suicides is another option.
Similar to In the Mood for Love, a film from which this one draws much inspiration, nothing much happens in Lost in Translation. It is a film like a labyrinth; you walk and walk, at times desperate, at times almost calmly meditating. You search for both the center and the escape, yet in the end you find out that none of the two can hold up to the walk.
Do I sound too philosophic? I hope you're fine with that.
Lost in Translation is indeed a very philosophic film, not only because its one main character has studied philosophy, nor because of the philosophic audiobook she sometimes listens to. The film's philosophy lies mainly in its cinematography, dialogue and portrayal of character relations.
Both the scenes in the crowded and partly high-tech, partly traditional, streets and corners of Tokyo, and the scenes in the grand and empty hotel lobbies and rooms, seem exotic and fascinating, so that you can never turn your head away from the screen.
The other two screen magnets are Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, who with their portrayal of two lost, searching characters hit just the right spot in me. I was never sure whether their relationship had an erotic or a platonic tendency, not even in the end, and this made out part of the fascination this movie provoked in me.
And then there is the dialogue of course - sporadic, philosophic and magnetizing as well. My favourite dialogue scene is the one where Bob and Charlotte lie down in a hotel bed, and you expect them to have sex although you think this would destroy everything, the whole atmosphere. I asked myself how Coppola would handle this, what possibilities she actually had to make this scene convincing and appropriate.
In an interview with Coppola and Murray, I learned that this was one of the hardest scenes to complete, and that the crew spent a long night filming it - and both Coppola and Murray thought this was the scene in which most people decide they actually like the movie. The result of their efforts is indeed a great one - the dialogue seems convincing and realistic, one of those rare conversations you sometimes have with someone. It starts with Charlotte falling onto the bed, saying "I feel stuck". This marks a clear change in the film's plot, with the relationship between Charlotte and Bob becoming more than just an encounter or a possible affair. I like how there is no real solution in the scene, as neither Charlotte nor Bob find out what they want with their lives, but at the same time there is a warm and safe feeling about the end of it, when both fall asleep (without having sex or any of the like).
This scene demonstrates the talent and ability of everyone involved in this film, from the script writer and director to the actors to many other people, and is a great example of the power and magic of cinema. It is one of those scenes I will often think about, philosophizing or thinking about my love for films.
So Lost in Translation leaves me with many things. It leaves me with one Sofia Coppola feature film to watch (Somewhere, plus the shorts), and it leaves me with the impression that life is change, and that knowing this can hurt and help at the same time.
And finally, it leaves me with a new favourite film.
The final word: