Lost In Translation: Alienation And Disconnection

2233 words - 9 pages

Lost in Translation (2003), a film written and directed by Sofia Coppola, tells the story of two privileged Americans in Tokyo: Charlotte, a young photographer’s wife and creative soul, overcome by ennui, searching for inspiration; and Bob, a once-relevant actor past his prime, working as a high-paid whiskey spokesman and struggling through a mid-life crisis. Besieged by jetlag, Bob and Charlotte are out of their element, forced from the unchallenging pattern of their daily lives, leaving them vulnerable and ripe for change. Displaced, alone with their insomnia, questioning their choices in life, they transform a fleeting connection with each other into an intimate bond that allows them to discover a direction, and ultimately, the ending of the film implies, rediscover a passion for life.
In Bob and Charlotte, Coppola creates two vivid characters, unique but relatable in their existential angst. Throughout the film Coppola’s deliberate cinematic choices in sound heighten the physical and emotional detachment of her characters, provide insight into their interior lives, and reinforce the film’s themes of alienation and disconnection in modern society. Examined together, Coppola’s conscious and effective use of audible devices – music, complex layering of ambient sound, silence, and volume – sets the mood and allows us to further understand the loneliness and isolation that leads to the characters’ soul searching journey toward self discovery and fulfillment.
Bob’s dreamlike arrival in Tokyo entails a long sequence in which off-screen sounds from the airport – a plane landing, a disembodied female voice welcoming passengers in Japanese and English – are layered over atmospheric traffic noises and intermingled with airy, incidental music as he is driven, half awake and half aware of his surroundings, into the overpowering neon brightness of the city. He’s greeted in the mute, impersonal opulence of the Park Hyatt by a half dozen giddy handlers and solemn hotel staff whose English he can barely understand and is handed a faxed message from his wife, the meaning of which is clear and combative. Looming over his fellow passengers, he travels in the polite silence of the elevator to the solitary confines of his hotel room. His disaffection is evident in his evasion of contact and the shortness of his answers, tinged with sarcastic humor. It becomes only more so as he embarks on his business in the city. Even with an interpreter at his side, he can’t comprehend the barking orders of the commercial director or the clichéd pop culture references of the photographer. Since he’s unable to divine what’s expected of him, he resigns himself to never understanding and loses interest in his performance. This could be true of the relationship with his wife as well, which is conducted through cell phone calls placed or received at inopportune times with varying clarity and late night missives sent via a fax machine whose intrusive beeps and whirrs interrupt...

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