|Directed by:||Sofia Coppola|
|Written by:||Sofia Coppola|
|Cast:||Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Anna Faris, Giovanni Ribisi|
Is it possible to be alone and surrounded by friends at the same time? Can two people find each other, without distraction, in one of the most populated cities in the world? Sofia Coppola’s LOST IN TRANSLATION explores the concept of loneliness and manages to pull it off with beautifully quiet subtlety, a subtlety that allows it to transcend most films in terms of deep and subconscious storytelling and become, in my opinion, one of the greatest feats of filmmaking ever fulfilled.
Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is an actor who himself is lost, devoid of any real joy and longing to experience something new. He’s got a dry wit, much like Bill Murray, but unlike Bill Murray, he is cold and emotionless. Murray’s performance as Harris is captivating, simple on the surface with a tempest of emotions swirling beneath the skin. He transcends a normal performance and literally embodies the character. Bill Murray does not play Bob Harris. Bill Murray is Bob Harris.
Charlotte (Scarlett Johannson) is a photographer’s wife, emotionally distraught from her husband’s constant traveling and neglect. She’s an innocent soul left in pools of loneliness, and she joins her husband on his trip to Tokyo to bond with him, though he’s never with her.
Both characters have friends and family, but are unfathomably lonely nonetheless. By happenstance, they cross paths in a hotel bar and make an instant connection. It’s not a romantic connection; Lost in Translation does not fall to the traditional conventions of romance films by making Charlotte fall in love with Bob or vice-versa. What develops initially is a distant friendship that gradually grows closer through a series of everyday encounters. They go to karaoke bars together. They attend hotel parties together. These scenes aren’t interwoven with soliloquies of romance or monologues speaking of love at first sight. The line between friendship and love remains grey throughout the film, and their relationship straddles that boundary without really committing to one side of the fence like most films do.
The ambient and soothing soundtrack adds to the quiet atmosphere, an atmosphere where the most apparent, shocking noise is that of a pin hitting the floor. One great song in particular, “Alone in Kyoto” by Air, perfectly accents a wonderful scene where Scarlett Johannson embarks on a mystifying walk through a Japanese garden. There is no dialogue or noise polluting the scene: it’s all atmosphere, and the scene would not be the same without the wonderfully tailored soundtrack.
Sofia Coppola has a way of showing so much with so little, something present in her previous film, 1999’s THE VIRGIN SUICIDES (another fantastic film). If you look carefully, you can see the subtle changes in Bob and Charlotte’s relationship much like you could see the Lisbon sisters’ descent towards suicide in THE VIRGIN SUICIDES. The beauty in LOST IN TRANSLATION is that Coppola never tells you where to look for plot progression. It’s there, and if you see then you see it and if you don’t then you don’t.
Admittedly, this film isn’t for everyone. Many will say that nothing happens in this film. To reiterate, they may be the kind of person that expects plot to be handed to them on a silver platter and spoon-fed to them using gold-plated utensils. If you’ve ever felt lonely or understand what loneliness is like, this film will most likely strike the right chord with you. After my initial viewing, I restarted the film and watched it a second time immediately, something I’ve never done to any film. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has grown ill of traditional movie formula that does not allow the viewer to figure anything out for themselves. LOST IN TRANSLATION is truly a film for the ages.