Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation ★★★★

”Let's never come here again because it would never be as much fun.”

Two strangers in the night are bound by their incapability to sleep in a city that is indifferent and strangely inhumane. Tokyo is the home of dozens of millions of people and many other temporary residents that visit the city in search of its color, culture and chaos. However, to Bob Harries and Charlotte this modern noisy metropolis represents a cage, a trap from which they cannot escape. Both are offered an anonymous status that theoretically could provide them a certain degree of freedom. However, they do not find such a thing. The roars of the city, its cries, the squeaks of the mechanical cogs and the shimmering lights only alienate them. The city hinders them from communicating with those that surround them (given the language barrier), but it also makes them fail to connect with those they share their lives with.

Tokyo is also perceived as a harbor. It is a foreign haven at which distant travelers must decide the fate of their future. Charlotte has just graduated and has been married for two years. With each day that passes she feels more distant from the man she fell in love with and right now she could not be more unsure of who she wants to become. What her future holds is unknown and thus her condition is frightening. She could go in one thousand different directions, yet none seem to provide security or happiness. Those are the terms of her prison. Harries’ paradigm is the exact opposite, but his symptoms are remarkably akin to hers. His life, unlike that of Charlotte, has already been defined. He’s an actor, a father and a husband. That’s who he chose to be. However, these social contracts have taken away his freedom and currently he too doesn’t know what he wants from the future.

Suffocated by unhappy marriages and unpromising careers the two strangers find solace in each other. He recognizes her first, but she is the one that approaches him. I love the intimacy they immediately share. “So . . . what are you doing here?”, she asks as if speaking to an old lover. It is also noteworthy that this first line of dialogue the two share only takes place thirty minutes into the picture. That consequently means that throughout the majority of the first act we see them apart – drifting aimlessly through the hotel and Tokyo without realizing that they were in fact looking for each other.

Harries and Charlotte’s chemistry is tangible. Their attraction had already been made evident even before the two formally met – the cheeky looks they exchange are proof of the same. However, it seems to me that their aim is not a sexual one. They don’t necessarily want to sleep with each other – they just want to sleep. However, in order to sleep they have to feel secure and comfortable. They offer those feelings to one another. It is then no wonder the fact that the two of them only fall asleep when side by side. He first falls asleep in the taxi and later he carries her to the hotel room as if she’s sleeping beauty. Their passion isn’t primarily a sexual one. Their passion just provides them the opportunity to escape their prisons – after meeting they forget their troubles and start feeling the present again.

However, the clock keeps ticking. There are moments where we get the sense that they do not know that their relationship is an impossibility. This is heartbreaking. Harries and Charlotte’s romantic connection is circumscribed to the place and time they are currently in. All the same, they eventually do realize that their relationship has an expiration date that is getting closer by the second. Consequently, they stop sleeping altogether once again. They return to a place of anxiety.

Sofia Coppola’s marvelous sophomore effort presents a classic case of two matching souls that meet at the wrong place, at the wrong time. They were lost in translation, lost in their relationships, lost between past and future, lost in their lives. However, in each other they found understanding and love. Regarding the enigmatic last whisper, I like to imagine that he says that the two of them will always have Tokyo.


Rti03 liked this review