September 15, 2003

Lost in Translation

Category: Personal — Biella @ 9:17 am

As an anthropologist, I have grown accustomed to making the unfamiliar, familiar. And even if it is not talked about, the process is always as much a psychological self journey as it is an academic, intellectual activity. Alive and traveling in a foreign environment, you are given a clean slate to examine your own world and life, whether it be your values, relationships, aspirations, and cavernous beliefs. Last night in Seattle I saw a movie that so captured this cultural process of self-exploration, Lost in Translation my Sophia Coppola. I went to see the movie as soon as I could being a fan of Bill Murray as well as wanting to see the movie of the rare breed of movie makers, female directors and/or writers and in this case, Sophia is both the writer and director. I liked her debut film, The Virgin Suicides although I felt the movie was an “atmospheric classic,” capturing and evoking an errie yet sublime atmosphere but stopping short at being able to capture the inner psychological world of the imprisoned sisters.

In Lost in Translation she was able to also capture the atmosphere of inner psychology and relationships and blend it so well with the visual atmosphere that the movie, though slow, enraptured. Both of the main characters, Charlotte and Bob find themselves in a strange land, disconnected and lost culturally from Japan but especially lost in their personal relationships. Bob is accustomed and almost resigned to his unfullfiled marriage while Charolotte is just coming to grips with the reality of a relationship where her husband says and declares love but words are so far from matching is action and true state of mind.

And that is what is really clever about the movie. The play between imagery, action, and words.

The dialogue is sparse… We see a lot of what the characters see and experience the actions and events as they do, hearing the buzz of flouresenct lights, the shrill of the annoying blond actress, and the ever present collage of lights and noise in Tokyo. Words in some ways come across in the movie as false. Well maybe not false but not as substantial as action, emotion, and intuition. Though there is a lot going on in the movie (and here are somereviews, one of my favorite parts was capturing the process of being honest with one’s true feelings about a relationship. Of not avoiding the fact that one is miserable or recognizing the lack of love and intimacy with a partner. This is a process that for the main character( as it is for many people) an emergent psychological process that appears and congeals in an intuitive fashion where feeling and space is more important that logic and calculation.

We are taken through Charlotte’s journey of recognition that her life and her partner is not what is right for her, a painful conclusion to come to in a marriage. Being in a strange place was one factor that brought her into a state where she could no longer ignore what might have been brewing for some time. And then her connection, real and refreshing connection with Bob Harris pushed this nymphal realization into fruition.

Their connection was one of intimacy and love although it was also a means toward this process of realistic self evaluation and realization, of learning how to trust yourself about what is right and wrong in one’s life and then perhaps having the courage to do something about it. The last scene was one of the more enigmatic and powerful ones. Bob is able to capture Charlotte one last time before he left back home. As they stand next to each other on a crowded street in Japan, clearly marked off from the rest, he hugs her, kisses her (for the first time) and whispers something to her that is barely audible by the audience. I am not sure how to take this last scene in which the audience really can’t translate because, well they cannot hear. But for me, I immediately had a reaction and a sense of what was going on. And I felt like the director and writer was asking me trust that intution, to trust my interpretation of the events because that is what Charlotte with the help of being in a foreign land and connecting with with a kindred spirit was able to do by the end of the movie. Bob Harris was letting her know that beyond the connection and possible love that they felt for each other, what was most important was that she was now able to make a choice to be true and authentic to herself. For her not to be lost, lost in a relationship that is supposed to be one of intimacy but instead is of great distance….

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