Revisiting ‘Lost in Translation’

Last night, I re-watched one of my favorite movies of all time “Lost in Translation” originally released in 2003, written and directed by Sofia Coppola. It stars Bill Murray playing Bob Harris, an American actor who finds himself in Tokyo for a film and photo shoot for a product he endorses (Suntory whisky) and Scarlett Johansson who plays Charlotte, a recently married, recent Yale philosophy graduate who finds herself in Tokyo with her photographer husband (John, played by Giovanni Ribisi).

For relaxing times its Suntory times

For relaxing times it’s Suntory times

The setting of Tokyo for two Americans who do not know the language acts as a wonderful backdrop. Coppola could have chosen Mars and possibly have had a similar effect, Tokyo is so utterly foreign. Both characters find themselves literally lost. Bob Harris, although at first fighting having to be there, uses the trip as a way to try and take stock in his life, re-evaluating his marriage, career and role as a father; he is having a mid life crisis, if you will. You get the sense that Bob’s life has taken a toll on his soul, he seems somewhat hollow and going through the motions. He wants to love his wife, but his marriage has drifted into the mundane and dull and it appears to be slowly killing him.

"Lip my stockings.""You want me to lip them?"

“Lick my stockings.”
“You want me to lick them?”

Charlotte, on the other hand, is young, beautiful and full of potential. Her husband appears from the observer’s perspective to be a mismatch for her. She is deep and thoughtful and he is superficial and easily flattered and he appears to be susceptible to the flirtations of other women. He leaves her in their hotel in Tokyo while he goes out of town for a work photoshoot. She is left pondering what she should be doing with her life, bored and alone.

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The two characters strike up a friendship. At times, it seems like Murray is spending time with a teenage or twenty something daughter, imparting wisdom and advice. Other times they flirt like teenagers and there is a definite sexual tension that arises between them, despite him being probably 25 years older than her. Somehow he understands her and he provides her with attention and intellectual companionship that her husband seems incapable of. The fact that they are both together in that foreign landscape of Tokyo allows the relationship to exist where it probably never would have if they were both in their own comfort zone environments.

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An interesting moment in the film is when Charlotte knocks on Bob’s door in the morning to find that he has slept with one of the singers from the hotel lounge. The disappointment she shows in her actions and dialogue reveals that she really does see him as a sexual being as well and she is hurt that he would be “unfaithful”- ironic, considering he is married and actually was unfaithful to his real wife.

I just think the movie is brilliant in so many respects. The screenplay certainly deserved all the accolades that it won. Similarly, the directing, the acting, the filming, pretty much everything was really well done. I think I am consistent in liking films such as this one that are somewhat simple, in the sense that it is mostly because of a great foundation in the writing that the film is such a success; as opposed to flashy stylistic things like 3D filming or special animation or effects or action scenes.

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I think every time I watch the movie, I am more mature and can have a slightly deeper understanding of both characters’ perspective, so I don’t think I will ever tire of re-watching it from time to time. Hope others enjoyed it as much as I have.

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