The Meaning in Human Connection: Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation
Our generation has a very weird sense of connection with others. Some might not feel connection unless the other person checks boxes X, Y and Z for them. Some might feel connection from nothing other than just the aura they produce. It could be similarity, what they are passionate about or what they have been through. Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation is a story of two strangers coming together over what they have and haven't been through, while longing for more on both sides of their spectrum.
Bob Harris (a character written exclusively for Bill Murray to play), who may or may not be going through a midlife crisis, spends a week in Tokyo to get a very large payout doing whiskey commercials (lots of American actors do this in real life because the pay is typically wild). His blended behavior of timid, calm and nonchalance is not exclusively a by-product of jet lag, but presumably from a divorce he feels is forthcoming. Charlotte (played by a 17-year-old Scarlett Johansson) is a quiet, yet snarky, introvert that is tagging along with her photographer husband. She stays inside their hotel most days and waits for him to come home to subsequently cling onto him, even though he usually leaves as soon as he shows up or sleeps somewhere else. She seldom goes out into Tokyo and when she does to attempt to connect with the foreign civilians, she fails.
These two strangers somehow keep meeting in the bar of their hotel and they find out they share a similar foreign feeling amongst everyone, more so than just being an American overseas. They both don't belong and quickly click over it. I don't believe the main characters’ relationship is exclusively a romantic connection. There's a lot of tension, not just sexual tension, in their interactions. None of their time together besides the kiss at the end made me think either were lingering to kiss each other and be together. Their connection is able to convey that Bob touching Charlotte's feet in bed (while she is in the fetal position, another subtle nod at their age difference) is as big of a realization of love as kisses and sex are.
Charlotte is at a stalemate in her life. Her husband is never around and she seems to have fallen out of love with him. She doesn't relate to his job or the people he works with at all. She's picked up and failed at multiple professions. Bob represents an older person that's been through the things she is existentially searching for. She can't even discuss this with her spouse as he's never around and is presumably the same age as her anyways.
Bob connects with Charlotte by way of her representing the pure innocence of being young and having the entire world ahead of you. He sees the world on course to crash down on her soon and he misses that feeling of youth. The world has already crashed down on him, left an impact and now he’s in the post-debris, wondering if that’s all life has to offer. The pinnacle of Bob's marriage now is his wife badgering him about a carpet color. He's unhappy with how everything turned out. Instead of looking at the positive of being in Tokyo getting two million dollars to do silly whiskey ads, all he sees is that he's an out-of-work actor that uses Japan's admiration of him via cable re-runs to finally get some work.
As much as there is a connection, the main characters completely contrast each other. Charlotte's pale face bursting with innocence and wonder is nothing like Bob's weathered face of haggard experiences.
As cliché as it may sound, some connections aren't meant to last, but they can teach you about yourself in such a short time. A week-long connection with someone you didn't know before could change your life and your entire ideology on life. Not every person you come in contact with that you feel strongly towards is suppose to be your life partner. Life is about using your experiences and connections as building blocks to get you to the next plateau of your life. While it hurts for both of the main characters to part at the end and never see each other again, Bob is fulfilled that his existence will help Charlotte end her marriage and finally start her life. For him, though, it might be too late.
Human connections are one of the most important things humanity has to offer. It’s utterly beautiful to go somewhere, find someone and each of you leaving an impression on each other. The bittersweet feeling of parting and not knowing if you’ll ever see them again. It might seem foreign to some if they are used to more conventional types of interactions with people and it can still feel strange to some. I would say that not many things in this life can make you feel as alive than going somewhere hundreds of miles away where no one knows you and having your impact still be felt by someone.