Women Film-makers

Looking back on Sofia Coppola’s ‘Lost In Translation’

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Artwork by Ellie Hoskins

When watching Lost in Translation I always find myself feeling a sense of serenity – the soundtrack (featuring artists like Roxy Music, Jesus and the Mary Chain and The Pretenders) creates an otherworldly ambiance that is reinforced by sensual cinematography and lots of soft lighting. Sofia Coppola introduces us to ageing actor Bob Harris – played superbly by Bill Murray and the unfulfilled Charlotte – aka Scarlett Johansson. These two lost individuals find each other in a strangely calm moment within the bustling city of Tokyo and embark on a rapidly moving relationship. Coppola makes their story feel tangible and real through subtly; on the surface, Lost in Translation doesn’t seem to have much happen in it – however when you look deeper – so much is shown and discovered through the characters actions rather than their words, which makes it so much more beautiful.

The feeling of not quite knowing where you are in the world is one that most people can relate to and the age of the characters creates an interesting spin on this idea. So many stories focus only on young people’s feelings of isolation and of having no real place in the world, but Coppola shows us that these feelings also manifest in older people too and can more intense, because they already have a lot of life behind them yet still lack a clear direction in terms of who they are. Murray’s character Bob finds himself in Tokyo shooting commercials for a Japanese brand of whiskey – something that you can tell he didn’t really ever see himself doing and is bored with. He spends a large amount of his time surrounded by people yet is painfully alone, in part due to an un-fulfilling marriage, until he comes across Charlotte that is. Every time I watch Lost in Translation I’m always struck at how Charlotte and Bob are reflections of one another – and that is why being in each other’s presence gives them such a sense of belonging and a peace of mind. Charlotte follows her photographer husband to Japan because she has nothing at home to keep her there – at times we see her floating through life, wandering around the city or spending the day in her hotel room – not taking control of things and having an underlying unhappiness but she grows more confident the more time she spends with Bob and starts to let herself go and finds freedom away from her other half .

The moment the two of them first meet at the bar in the hotel and tentatively strike up a conversation symbolises, to me at least, when they start to find themselves. Coppola shows us that their journey can only be successful if they have each other, so from there on out most scenes involve them being together. The scene when they go out into the city and participate in karaoke always gets to me – it’s so simple, but manages to convey just how much Charlotte and Bob dote on each other and the love that exists between them. When they share a cigarette afterwards, leaning against one another, no words are spoken because none are needed, everything we need to know about their relationship and the depth of the feelings that exist between them comes from their actions, rather than their voices. Their relationship grows throughout the film; subtly but intensely. The end of the film, where Bob meets Charlotte in the middle of a bustling street before he has to leave, and whispers something inaudible to her after they embrace is truly magical – it’s as though no one else exists in the world except the two of them – because they’ve finally found themselves.

By Megan Gibb


MEGAN GIBBMegan Gibb is a 19 year old from Cambridge, based in Manchester for university and has been in love with all things film ever since she can remember. Her fave films are The Terminator, Drive, Forrest Gump and Fight Club but she also has a huge soft spot for 1980’s John Hughes films. Her main interests include shopping for vinyl, eating too much carrot cake and making wall collages of 80’s bands for her and her friends. She can be found on twitter @megang96 and blogs atpopdunk.

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