Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation is a film about two characters who come together in their feelings of isolation in a foreign place. Charlotte and Bob develop a strong friendship through their mutual feelings of loneliness and confusion about their lives. Charlotte is newly married and unsure what she wants to do now, especially professionally. Bob has been married for a while but has clearly grown apart from his family – his telephone conversations with his wife are chilly and his children leave the room when invited to speak to him on the phone. Later in the movie he tries to act as a parent from so far away, telling his wife to tell their daughter that he said she needed to sleep. The wife doesn’t seem to pay attention to him and he certainly fails to reach his daughter. Charlotte has similar issues with distance – beyond her never-present husband who seems to be flirting with a woman he photographs, when she tells her friend over the phone “I don’t know who I married,” it’s as if she didn’t say anything at all. It’s these similar problems that lead to the somewhat unlikely-seeming friendship between Bob and Charlotte. Neither of them initially are able to sleep in Tokyo, but after they have become friends there is a scene where Charlotte falls asleep and Bob carries her to bed. This is included as an indication of the emotional significance of their friendship.

Bob obviously feels very awkward in Tokyo. Coppola uses shots of him in a crowded elevator, standing much taller than everyone surrounding him, to emphasize his discomfort. Although Bob is a celebrity, some of the most clearly uncomfortable scenes are when he’s on camera. His awkward commercial shoot and appearance on a very strange talkshow are not only uncomfortable and confusing because of culture and language barriers but because they serve as reminders that his career has peaked.

Charlotte’s isolation is expressed through the things she does in her hotel room. Her husband leaves her there with little to do – she ends up decorating the room with flowers and calling a friend who doesn’t listen to her. When she does go out, she seems uncomfortable in the same way Bob does, for example, when she sees a man looking at a pornographic cartoon on the subway. It is their isolation that brings these two characters together and creates a very deep sense of friendship.


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