What the Hell Did He Say to Her?: An Analysis of Sofia Coppola's 'Lost in Translation'
Upon being introduced to Darren Foley's video analyses (his study of Prisoners is an absolute must-see), you can imagine my excitement when I saw that he broke down one of my favorite films, Lost in Translation. In this analysis, Foley explains many of the film's more obscure elements, like the themes of loneliness and isolation, the cinematography that communicates said themes, and, yes, the infamous scene where Bill Murray whispers inaudibly to Scarlett Johannson. Continue on to check it out.
Here's the trailer to Lost in Translation, which, by the way, Sofia Coppola directed back in 2003. Is anyone else as surprised as I am that this movie is 11 years old?
Anyone who has seen this film knows that the themes of loneliness and isolation are really apparent. The cinematography definitely communicates that -- the wide shots of the characters occupying a small space alone, or a large space with thousands of people shuffling by them completely unaware of their existence. Both of these things work to sell the idea that Murray's character, Bob, and Johansson's character, Charlotte, are lonely, isolated, and missing something.
As Foley points out in his analysis, Coppola also uses the concept of "balance" to communicate the emotional state of her characters. Or in other words, the world of her characters, in this case Tokyo, becomes the visual representation of their emotional states. For instance, when Bob and Charlotte arrive in Tokyo, they are both emotionally unbalanced and unsatisfied, so the way they are composed in several shots reflects that visually -- they take up one side of the frame without much to counterbalance them. When they finally meet each other, however, she begins to bring that balance to his life, and thus, to the frame. Here are some examples of this:
Notice the contrast between the two sides of the image (one large, dark object vs. many small, light objects) -- unbalanced.
The same thing goes for this image as well.
When they meet, they bring balance to each other's lives, which is represented by a balanced composition.
Even when apart, Charlotte's satisfying effect on Bob's life lingers, as seen in this beautifully composed shot.
Check out Foley's analysis below. (For those of you who want to go right to his interpretation of the "Whisper Scene", it starts at around 7:25.)
Feel free to share your own analytical takeaways from Lost in Translation, as well as your interpretation of why Sofia Coppola shot the "Whisper Scene" the way she did in the comments below.