Lost in Translation (2003) Directed by Sofia Coppola. With Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.
Most of us know the feeling of landing in a foreign country, where everything is familiar, but yet completely different at the same time. The language barrier often gets in the way of the most mundane of tasks, yet standing back from the frustration, there’s a comedy inherent to the little misunderstandings. Writer and director, Sofia Coppola, serves up the transcendent story of an unlikely relationship gaining traction, in an overcrowded city in which it feels like only two people exist.
The film is striking on many levels. Not only for the silent depth that is achieved through the characters, but also for the way in which Tokyo feels like an alternate universe to us, the viewers and the central characters of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson, in so much as that it prohibits them from being themselves with anyone but each other.
Murray is perfectly cast as a successful US actor in Japan on a lucrative business trip to shoot a whiskey advert. Johannson just so happens to be in town with her young, neglectful photographer husband (Geovanni Ribisi) when their paths cross. Murray’s uniquely sardonic delivery is a perfect match for Tokyo and makes for some very funny scenes. Johannson too, is a delight as Charlotte, and the as the relationship develops, there’s a real sense of the excitement and longing restrained, yet bursting to get out. It’s one of the great cinematic examples of that stomach-flippingly, tantalising feeling of being so close to love, yet so far away.
I can’t speak highly enough of how deeply connected to this film I felt. It’s funny, yet it’s subtle and thoughtful. Once the final credits roll, you really feel like you’ve been to Tokyo and back and that maybe the best place to find ourselves is a place we feel completely lost. 5/5