By Fabian Broeker.
Lost in Translation stems from an American cinematic tradition of fleeting romantic encounters between drifting protagonists, brought together by the enigma and wonder of the foreign city. One can easily draw parallels to Jesse and Celine’s saunter through Vienna in Before Sunrise or Joe Bradley’s encounter with a princess in Roman Holiday. However, Lost in Translation offers more subtlety than both these films, and discards the traditional romantic narrative in favour of the portrayal of a slow-burning, (mostly) platonic connection between two people uncomfortable and alienated in their lives.
Lance Acord’s subdued cinematography fills each frame with vast spaces, in which Bob and Charlotte search for a remedy to their dislocated state of being. The characters’ narrative cycles at times mirror one another visually, before they are brought together and the spaces which separate them slowly begin to merge. Bob and Charlotte edge towards one another, crossing the invisible line Acord and Coppola have placed between them and reconstructing the cinematic frame, as well as their relationship.
Here’s my video essay on the distancing between characters and use of empty space in Lost in Translation.
A lonely, aging movie star named Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and a conflicted newlywed, Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), meet in Tokyo. Bob is there to film a Japanese whiskey commercial; Charlotte is accompanying her celebrity-photographer husband. Strangers in a foreign land, the two find escape, distraction and understanding amidst the bright Tokyo lights after a chance meeting in the quiet lull of the hotel bar. They form a bond that is as unlikely as it is heartfelt and meaningful.
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