London based creative studying Contemporary Media Practice at The University Of Westminster.
Published March 17th 2017
When I watched this film for the first time a few years back, I sat and watched it everyday for 3 days straight. At first I couldn't tell if I liked or disliked this film but knew something was enticing me to keep rewatching. This film now places in my top 10 favourite movies and is always a pleasure to revisit it once in a while.
I must warn you it's a slow goer. If you haven't got around to watching this yet, or always skim past it when searching for your next movie fix, I highly recommend you give it a shot. You are sure to find incremented levels of self awareness and this is one way in which the pace works.
Sofia Coppola's 2003 film 'Lost in Translation' evokes a grounded portrayal of loneliness and isolation as well as a world of exclusion, troubled relationships and the search for the characters' self-discovery, through the ideological and cinematic representation of Tokyo, Japan.
Centred around three characters; Bob Harris, Charlotte, and Japan itself, the film offers a personal gratification for the audience. The lives of the characters are not over sexualised nor over characterised but bare a sense of truth, honesty and understanding, enabling the audience to relate to the characters as they travel down the road to self-discovery. Although shot on a small budget of just $4 million, Sofia Coppola is able to create a world that signifies our own, embellishing day to day life and problems which brings this world alive.
Within the opening scenes we are introduced to both characters via their own unique sequences as they have not yet been introduced to one another; however these separate scenes offer a significant similarity which enables the audience to see that already, the two characters have identifiable, emotional synergy. A prime example of this is by the use of continuous unbalanced frames during the early stages of the film.
When Bob first arrives in Tokyo he sits in the taxi positioned primarily to the left, filling up almost the full frame, the only thing that stops this is the illuminated neon signs passing by, as the taxi continues the journey to Bob's destination. Two scenes later we are introduced to Charlotte, who sits at her hotel window ledge overlooking Japan as she is unable to sleep. Similar to Bob, the camera is out of focus when introducing Charlotte, making a swift focus pull onto the character. This indicates that there is a sense of uncertainty about Charlotte, thus connecting both Bob and Charlotte to one another, without human interaction. There is already an indication that they are both emotionally unbalanced and this is reflected visually as they fill one side of the frame without much to counterbalance them.
As the film progresses and both characters are formally introduced to each other, there is a subtle shift in how the scenes are presented. At their first meeting they both sit at a bar with their backs facing Tokyo and the foreground presents a bleakness of colour. But as the friendship between the two develops, they bring balance to each other's lives, and to the overall frame represented by a similarly balanced composition. This also acts as an emotional resolution to the characters as the film closes with a scene showing Bob leaving Tokyo, this time the outer world that was once so alienating, has now brought a sense of familiarity to him.
Sofia Coppola does an outstanding job at flipping the tables on conventional Hollywood blockbusters that uses characters only as a 'prop' within films. She allows Tokyo itself to be the narrative drive, not just depending on central characters to solely dictate the resolution of the film.