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Lost in Translation (2003) – Coming to a Boil

LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003)

Directed by Sofia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides; Somewhere). Starring Bill Murray (Saturday Night Live; Ghostbusters; Groundhog Day; The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), Scarlett Johansson (The Island; The Prestige; We Bought a Zoo). Francis Ford Coppola was a producer.

After my first viewing of Lost in Translation, I was not impressed. I grasped some of the themes, but I couldn’t  quite piece together what the film was actually about. I recently watched this film again, and I now love it more than I ever thought I would. Like no other existing film I’ve seen or heard of, it portrays the need for human connection and interaction. (Side note: However, The Station Agent (2003) comes close. Released in the same year as Lost in Translation, it explores solitude and the necessity for camaraderie and support. I highly recommend checking this film out! http://www.thestationagent.com/story.html.) It reflects those people with whom we bond in unfamiliar and lonely situations, people we invest time and energy in even though our relationship with them will be short-lived and unable to be maintained. From the moment that the two main characters meet for the first time, we know that they cannot and will not be together in the end (they will realize this eventually as well), but we still invest in the development of their relationship.

The reason that I chose to write about this film is because of one scene towards the end of the film. Before the scene starts, Johansson’s character learns that Murray’s character has slept with the jazz singer from the hotel. Although she is married (and so is Murray’s character), she is visibly and inexplicably perturbed by this knowledge.

They then go out to lunch for one of their last meals together. In between them, a steam pot boils. I thought that this element in the scene adds so much to the tension between the two of them. Just as the water has come to a boil, their feelings for each other have intensified and peaked. Below are some stills (two from the boiling scene and one from the prior scene I discussed) and an excerpt from the Lost in Translation shooting script. It’s definitely worth taking a look at.

Shooting Script Excerpt:

     INT. SHABU SHABU RESTAURANT - DAY

               Bob and Charlotte are seated at a big booth in a corny Shabu 
               Shabu restaurant.

                                     CHARLOTTE
                         The Jazz singer? The red-head?

               Bob looks at her like- don't make it worse.

                                     CHARLOTTE
                         Well, I guess she's more around your 
                         age...  You guys could talk about 
                         things in common, like growing up in 
                         the fifties.

                                     BOB
                         You're a brat, wasn't there anyone 
                         else around to lavish you with 
                         attention?

               She scowls at him.

               The waitress brings them drinks- she pours beer slowly, and 
               turns on a pot on the table to cook their food.

               Charlotte looks at the menu - it is filled with photos of 
               different trays of meat. The waitress doesn't speak English.

                                     CHARLOTTE
                         I can't tell the difference?

               They have trouble ordering, but point to a picture on the 
               menu.

                                     BOB
                         We'll have two of these.

               He makes some small talk, she is bugged.

                                     BOB
                         What do you want to drink?

                                     CHARLOTTE
                         A coke.

               He orders the drinks.

                                     BOB
                         So, where'd you go today.

                                     CHARLOTTE
                         Around.

               "This is the End" by The Doors starts playing on the stereo. 
               The waitress brings two huge trays of sliced raw beef. Steam 
               rises from the pot on the table.

               The song ends, and another Doors song comes on.

                                     CHARLOTTE
                         They're not going to play the whole 
                         album, are they?

               They look across the table, over the steam and meat, at each 
               other- the whole thing is awful.

                                                                  FADE OUT

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