Friday, 6 August 2010

lost in translation - together

People seem to either love or hate this film. I love it. People who hate it, 'don't get it', obviously they have never had this sort of experience. I have. And the beauty of the film is how poignantly realistic it is... *sigh*, I'm going to stop there. It's too close to my own heart to go into further without revealing too much about my own experience. Plus I don't want to go there for my own sanity.

Instead I'll hand over to the words of someone else - Roger Ebert.
Here are some snippets.

Bill Murray's acting in Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation" is surely one of the most exquisitely controlled performances in recent movies. Without it, the film could be unwatchable. With it, I can't take my eyes away.  Not for a second, not for a frame, does his focus relax, and yet it seems effortless. It's sometimes said of an actor that we can't see him acting. I can't even see himnot acting. He seems to be existing, merely existing, in the situation created for him by Sofia Coppola.

She has one objective: She wants to show two people lonely in vast foreign Tokyo and coming to the mutual realization that their lives are stuck. Perhaps what they're looking for is the same thing I've heard we seek in marriage: A witness. Coppola wants to get that note right. There isn't a viewer who doesn't expect Bob Harris and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) to end up in love, or having sex, or whatever. We've met Charlotte's husband John (Giovanni Ribisi). We expect him to return unexpectedly from his photo shoot and surprise them together. These expectations have been sculpted, one chip of Hollywood's chisel after another, in tens of thousands of films. The last thing we expect is… what would probably actually happen. They share loneliness.

I can't tell you how many people have told me that just don't get "Lost in Translation." They want to know what it's about. They complain "nothing happens." They've been trained by movies that tell them where to look and what to feel, in stories that have a beginning, a middle and an end. "Lost in Translation" offers an experience in the exercise of empathy. The characters empathize with each other (that's what it's about), and we can empathize with them going through that process. It's not a question of reading our own emotions into Murray's blank slate. The slate isn't blank. It's on hold. He doesn't choose to wear his heart on his sleeve for Charlotte, and he doesn't choose to make a move. But he is very lonely and not without sympathy for her. She would plausibly have sex with him, casually, to be "nice," and because she's mad at her husband and it might be fun. But she doesn't know as he does that if you cheat it shouldn't be with someone it would make a difference to.

I wish I had written and made this film.


Drisk said...

I must say I'm not entirely convinced by Roger Ebert's analysis of Lost in Translation. I think he makes some good points but I don't think it's entirely right to say they simply share loneliness, I think the loneliness acts as a catalyst for something else.

"There isn't a viewer who doesn't expect Bob Harris and Charlotte to end up in love, or having sex, or whatever."

I find this odd because I believe them to be in love and I took the whole part of him having sex with the bar singer as a complete juxtaposition to their relationship. A physical relationship that means nothing against a non consummated relationship that means everything and I think the lack of sex goes to emphasise their love even more.

And I don't think watchers have an issue with their needing to be a beginning, middle or an end. Under the MICE quotient we say stories come in 4 types:
- Milieu
- Idea
- Character
- Event
and this is quite simply a character story and I think there are many popular examples of character stories that people do get... Half Nelson being one of my favoured examples.

I would say that people who don't get, don't get it not because of their movie conditioning but, because of their emotional conditioning and I think to really get involved with this film you need to understand the emotions behind the characters.

okay I'll stop rambling now, sorry if none of this makes sense I'm writing it on an iPhone so can't read it back.

eden's elephant said...

I agree with you too! I think that the fact he slept with someone else and not her shows his feelings for her, whereas the sex with the other woman was meaningless. Ebert seems to see this as just a blip or a pause in their connection rather than a feeling of betrayal for Charlotte - that was meant to have been her - to her realisation of why it wasn't and the deeper meaning that him not sleeping with her, gave their relationship.

It was so powerful for me because it reflects a situation I've been in, and the emotions and choices I, and he, were faced with.

I must see Half Nelson - you are my new film guru!


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