Since her directional debut in 1999, Sofia Coppola has toyed with a variety of topics, genres and themes. From the extravagant biopic Marie Antoinette to the satirical crime drama The Bling Ring, Sofia is no one trick pony. This year sees her return to the directors chair for the first time in four years with her haunting period thriller The Beguiled, that was first adapted for the screen in 1971. Yet it was back in 2003 that Sofia made the film that remains to this day her greatest triumph.
Based on her original script, Lost in Translation sees respected actor turned artistic sellout Bob (Bill Murray) and philosophy graduate Charlotte (Scarlet Johansson) form a close bond after lives collide in a Tokyo hotel.
The two Americans are, quite literally, lost in translation and their disillusionment with the strange culture that surrounds them serves as a metaphor for their personal struggles. The age gap between the protagonists (he’s in his fifties and she’s in her twenties) would scare lots of Hollywood writers, but one of the joys in Sofia’s clever script finds a link between Bob’s middle-aged woes and Charlotte’s fears about her future. Her nonchalant attitude to Bob’s worries “you’re probably just having a mid-life crisis” brings a dose of much needed humour to his life. Meanwhile, Bob uses his years of experience to ease Charlotte’s concerns “the more you know who you are and what you want the less you let things upset you.”
But Bob and Charlotte aren’t the film’s only stars. The other, that never allows itself to become a third wheel, is Japan. From our first glimpse of the city we are transfixed with its lights, colour and buzzing energy that bursts with so much life even those who’ve never visited will feel like they have.
Equally mesmerising is the film’s electrifying soundtrack. Bouncing from Death in Vegas to Air and The Jesus and Mary Chain – it compliments the powerful imagery and mood all the while working in perfect harmony with the characters ever-varying emotions.
I have seen Sofia Coppola’s character-driven stories go spectacularly wrong (just try and sit through Somewhere) but Lost in Translation shows the level of emotion, realism and phenomenal storytelling that can emerge from the of simplest scripts.