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Lost in Translation

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Essay- Lost in Translation

Sophia Coppola’s, Lost In Translation presents a relationship between two Americans who are married, but lack communication and e attention from their spouses, while staying in Tokyo. Bob Harris is away from his family on a business trip as he is going through a mid-life crisis. Charlotte, a woman in her early twenties struggles to find a place in the world. She hoped a trip to Tokyo, with her husband would help conflicted feelings about her two-year-old marriage, her spirit, discovering a purpose and finding a career. These individuals meet and are instantly attracted to one another, because of parallel doubts about their life in contrasting perspectives. Magnetically drawn to one another, they inevitably communicate their problems in marriage, their fears, and insecurities of current circumstances. Their feelings of displacement, isolation and alienation during their stay in Japan, provide an exploration of complex human emotions, such as boredom and loneliness.
Bob Harris is an aging movie star beyond his peak years, who is still famous enough to be recognized, but not to be asked to do any more movies. Now in his fifties, he traded his fast-paced Hollywood lifestyle for a wife and family. Harris thinks that he’ll only be in Tokyo for a few days, but his stay is extended when his agent explains that he couldn’t pass on a deal a prestigious photographer offered. Mr. Harris is making two million dollars from a Japanese whiskey company working with a director and a production crew whose instructions he doesn’t understand at all. Bob is repeatedly told what to do and too much direction leads him to feel imprisoned within, because of barriers communicating. During the ad shoot, he wonders why long instructions by the Japanese director end up so short, when they are translated for him. The lack of language translation makes him feel alienated from everything and everyone around him. Bob is obviously unhappy, and he carries himself like a defeated man. He is disconnected from his wife and the foreign surroundings around him. This increases his emotional isolation, while staying in an unfamiliar country. In the final stages of Bobs career, a reputation in Japan is enhanced, while his desire of a respectable career in theater is only a dream. Bob in a scene, stares out of his limo at his image on a building-sized Suntory ad. He blinks and shakes his head, as if he pulls his mind back into his body. His reaction toward the image show how he despises the fame in a foreign society and after he detaches himself even more, conclusively drinking at the bar. His weariness settles to the thoughts of what his life is and what his life could’ve been. Bob wants to go home, because of feeling like a prisoner as he suffers from insomnia routinely, while on his business trip.
Charlotte is a young New Yorker, who’s tagged along to Japan with her distracted photographer husband. She is occasionally stranded in the beautiful, huge high-rise Park Hyatt hotel almost the whole visit, because John has to leave to perform his duties. While he works, she has plenty of time to think about the state of their new marriage and her frustration about not knowing what she really wants to do, with her life. She's tried writing and photography and come up feeling inadequate in both. I believe her husband criticizes Charlotte out of her element, because John had already said that she is snooty. Overwhelmed, with nothing to do, she watches Japanese TV and listens to her self-help CD about how to search for one’s soul. While visiting a Buddhist temple, she breaks down as the emptiness and loneliness settle in. Then as she arrives back at the hotel, she calls her mother, who doesn't hear the dread in her daughter's voice or see the tears running down her face. Charlotte cannot communicate her frustration and sadness, with anyone else. Her emotions take over, while she wanders the corridors or sits on the windowsill of her room, staring at the city and hugging her bare knees all alone. She can't sleep at night, as her loneliness is too oppressive. Of course, it doesn't help that Charlotte hasn't been able to sleep since arriving in the city. Charlotte has too little direction and gives the impression that she’s gone through a lifetime of disappointment, even though she is young. John shows affection to her, but Charlotte is unsure of her future with John, as she believes he takes more interest in a popular American actress than he does in her.
Bob towers over the natives of Tokyo, when he first spots Charlotte; she is consciously unaware that they exchange smiles but no words. Harris and Charlotte cross paths repeatedly, before actually introducing themselves at the panoramic sky bar of the luxury hotel in which they stayed. A relationship in a foreign environment between these two Americans forms almost instantly, as they converse. Their alienation is all too familiar, when attempting to find oneself in a strange, yet familiar way. Although they have a substantial age difference, the understanding and relation of their circumstances exceeds the importance of a generation gap. Both are lost in their lives, professions, and marriages as each wished they didn’t have to be in Japan. They're in solitary confinement in their own heads and understand each other to know what exists in their own souls. Harris is a man going through a crisis, while Charlotte doesn't know whom she is so they see pain in each other's eyes and develop a connection more meaningful than either of them could’ve expected. Their relationship is this complex mixture of a mentor and a lover. Charlotte’s husband has abandoned her both physically and emotionally. She needs someone else to share her experiences with and wants attention from Bob, because John was always away. The tired and depressed older male was separated from his family so he found Charlotte to connect with on a deep emotional level.
Bob and Charlotte spend a lot of time looking at the glittering skyscrapers and extravagant views from their windows of the hotel. They wander throughout the city trying to ease their isolation and feelings of displacement, living in another society. The sense of discovery, solitude and strangeness is what they experience, staying in Tokyo. An on going display of consumerist technology is embraced, with all the multidimensional mysteries and marvels of this city. Numerous foreign language-flashing signs, which display a mixture of colors help create a sense of confusion and alienation. The sense of otherness and of cultural superiority merges uncomfortably. Bob and Charlotte's appearance physically is obvious in Japan, which shows a superb cultural difference. Having superiority in another country contributes to their loneliness, which makes them more alienated than they'd otherwise be. Far removed from the city, the culture, and the language, Bob and Charlotte feel their lack of connection fiercely. The two Americans do manage to connect with each other in a soulful way that refreshes and renews them both, while visiting a territory that is all new to them.
Bob and Charlotte relationship began as a simple friendly acquaintance, which later evolves into a kind of love that emerges, between two people. They obviously have no future together, and a bond solidifies with both parties knowing it must be broken in a few days. Developing an unlikely friendship, with the barriers of Japanese culture, language, age, and relationship issues is something that they will remember forever. Coppola showed chances of breaking those barriers down by simply partaking in honest discussions. Bob understood Charlotte almost too well and gave her special attention that she desired. In return, Charlotte relieves him from his pain, misery and hatred, as he is away from his family during his trip. When it is time for them to resume their normal lives, leaving becomes very difficult when their feelings for each other surfaces. In this film, Coppola conveyed to us as viewers that we must bring meaning to our life by giving meaning to our lives. Life does not come to us so we must come to life. In an interview, Sophia says, “It’s about moments in life that are great, but don’t last.” These moments that are great shape who we are as human beings. Charlotte and Bob showed how individuals could find happiness, even at the lowest points of their lives.

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