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 yet completely different. The language barrier 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 that it prohibits them from being themselves with anyone but each other.
Murray is perfectly cast as a reluctant US actor in Japan on a lucrative business trip to shoot a whiskey advert. Johannson is in town with her neglectful photographer husband (Geovanni Ribisi) when their paths cross. Murray’s uniquely sardonic delivery is a perfect counterpoint to the dizzying noise of Tokyo and makes for some funny scenes. Johannson too, is a delight as Charlotte and as their relationship develops there’s a real sense of the excitement and restrained longing bursting to get out. It’s one of the great cinematic examples of that stomach-flipping, tantalising feeling of being so close to love yet so far away.
Coppola’s direction is mature and measured. Her movie is funny, yet subtle and thoughtful. Once the credits roll you 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.