Friday, August 10

Lost In Translation

Last night was probably the fourth time I’ve seen the movie, and yet I never grow tired of it. Bill Murray has such impeccable comic timing and wry mockery on this you can’t help but laugh about it. I do not at all find this movie an affront on the Japanese race as other pedants may claim. For me, it is a bird’s eye view of someone who has stayed briefly in the country, seen a bit of things, tasted a small part of its culture, but has never really understood what it embodies. If it was set in my country and had portrayed some of our idiosyncrasies, I might have initially been offended too. But then I would think, that is how outsiders see us, and it can be pretty amusing in the end. Lucky for us who have been brought out to a wider audience, unlucky for them who saw only too little to comprehend what it’s all about.

However, what I remember more deeply, and probably more importantly about this film is life’s tragedy and the complexities of human relationships. The emptiness, the white nights, the feeling of displacement that both the central characters in this movie feel, the need for companionship, and on a general scale, the mechanized way that we conform with what is proper, as opposed to what we honestly want. These emotions are present in, and I think equalizes us humans, regardless of our age, social stature, or mental maturity. There comes indeed a point where no measure of material wealth or gained wisdom is sufficient to make us understand why life is empty and without a meaningful purpose, and that we are oddly lost in the translation of the very obvious things—love, sadness, joy, family, ourselves .

In the story, two Americans met in a lobby of a posh hotel. Charlotte (the beautiful Scarlett Johannson), a philosophy graduate and wife to a rather neglectful celebrity photographer on assignment, and an aging actor Bob Harris (Bill Murray’s character), a movie star nearing the end of his career and who has come to work on a whiskey commercial . After a few brief innocent encounters, Charlotte and Bob began to share feelings of their odd transitory life in Japan, the way that they are trapped in their marriages, and the uncertainties of their individual future lives. They became increasingly close as they spent more time together fleetingly, in the Tokyo region of Japan which provided the interesting backdrop, where they roamed the streets, sushi bars, bonsai gardens, arcades and karaokes—singly, or both-- apart from the married lives they were excruciatingly trying to cope with. On the eve of Bob’s departure, Charlotte finds him with another woman in his room, and there seemed to be a falling out between them. Not soon afterwards, they see each other in a hotel lobby and make up, and express how they would miss the other when one has gone. When finally they had to say goodbye the next day, the tension of wanting to be physically closer, or be able to say something but could not, of trying not to linger with the dizzying feeling of, maybe love, or longing, kept me on the edge of my seat. Yes, I too, am an incurable romantic.

The final scene is where Bob sits in the car on the way to fly back home, and he sees Charlotte in the crowd. He motions the chauffeur to stop and he runs to find the girl. He calls to her, and she turns to see him. They look each other in the eyes, for how long I cannot care enough to complain, they hug and he whispers something to her ear, and then they kiss. So much for all the tension. I can only mutter…sweet jesus….. And then a whiff of air blows and gets them back to their senses, with a certain feeling of resolve, evident in the smile on both their faces as they again part and go each other’s ways. Which left me thinking, what did he say to her? And kept me guessing--about the future, if any, of their ambiguous relationship.

I had to turn to wikipedia for a bit of enlightment, or gossip. There were many speculations about what Bob whispered to the girl’s ear. It was said that Bill Murray did it impromptu, not part of the script, and that he would not repeat what he said, in the interviews later. However, some nosy individuals might have gone the extra mile and used a device to make out the audio, and it is very likely that he had said “I love you. Don't forget to always tell the truth…”.

Well, whatever, we could always make up our own lines to our satisfaction.

But then, I am left vague in the mind and asking questions. Are encounters like these, where we find a kindred and share a mutual feeling of connection, in a disconnected world, meant to be a catalyst, a door at the end of a dark passage where we can finally shed off all our emotional layers and walk at a definitive moment where there is a blinding light, a cure to all our emotional ills, to all our manic worries, and all our interminable sadness, thus declaring our life’s denouement?

Or we resign ourselves, back to what is real and expected, to what is asked of us, but to where we can deal with things and relationships a little braver and stronger, and come to grips with the same hell all over again?

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