Embracing a friendly ecosystem of technology and innovation interwoven with rich, cultural traditions of the past, Japan and its people are steeped in majesty. It is a cheerful country of idealistic perspective and determination among natives and foreigners alike. Though this illustrious island is a marvel to behold—both culturally and philosophically—it is without question one of the most introspective environments to find oneself in. As a case in point, Sofia Coppola’s tour de force film Lost in Translation recalls a very specific egoism in examining the relationship of two equally lost souls.
Bob (Billy Murray), a husband, father and American television/film personality arrives in Tokyo with a business commitment to endorse the Japanese Suntory whiskey brand. He finds it hard to adjust to the oddity of Japanese hospitality and his motivation as an endorser quickly spirals into a banal and unfortunate obligation. He spends his evenings at the hotel bar and, luckily for him, the whiskey works wonders. Bob inadvertently meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), a young and unassuming Yale graduate. She is accompanying her photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi) on an business trip. As with Bob, Charlotte cant help but feel lost in translation. A sense of abandonment and dissolution confine her to her hotel room. Initially, her husband’s indifference to her well being is painful to watch. His attitude only heightens an already profound struggle for Charlotte. The film establishes this feeling of desertion very well in its the first few sequences.
So, Bob and Charlotte meet as two, mutual identities in a foreign land and a complex dichotomy is sparked in this encounter; one that stems from a deep-rooted passion for. The story here takes a turn for the better as both Charlotte and Bob begin their journey towards a brief yet deeply existential enlightenment. Bob may not be the altruistic and accountable male figure that exists in the fairy tales but his temperament is no less honorable. Though under the gaze of a secure and grounded reality his sense of humor rings hopeful for the audience and, especially, for Charlotte. They laugh together and spend much of their time in full disclosure. For Bob, Charlotte is seen as a refreshingly carefree companion. She is his remedy for a disembodying existence in a world so far away from any true engagement. Their fellowship symbolizes a spiritual closeness in which a mutual regard for stability blossoms into a loving rapport.
When the time comes for Bob to leave the country and return to his family, this symbolic closeness has almost matured into a full-fledged reality. The risk is great, for to leave now is to begin an entirely unfamiliar and futureless journey and to vacate all possibility of a destined life in Japan. Yet some moments, however fantastic and enlightening, are meant to be brief. When the two say their goodbyes that sense of detachment arises again but this time the pain is more intimate.
No such struggle exists without a poignant and tender response. Bob, one his way to the airport in a taxi, sees Charlotte walking amidst a crowd. He tells the driver to stop, abandons his inevitable future and heads for the girl of his not-so-distant past. In a crowded street two lost souls rekindle their flame in a single embrace that is both restrained and profound. Words cannot describe the mysticality of this moment and, though we will never know what Bob whispered to Charlotte during those few passionate seconds, this loving encounter is all we really need to understand its significance. Bob ends this steadfast farewell with a soft kiss. They part ways and during the last few moments in view of one another they are together and in love.