Fun fact: different countries around the world can get different movies on Netflix. The night of June 24, I stayed up all night waiting to be driven to the airport at four in the morning from Quito, Ecuador, to Cleveland, Ohio. And luckily, one of the other interns I was working with had Netflix, so I decided to watch a few movies while I waited. “The Artist” (which would be released in the U.S. two days later) was already on Netflix, so I got to watch that. I got to see Stanley Kubrick’s “The Killing” for the first time, which was an excellent film. But I also got to see another recent indie film: “Lost in Translation”, written and directed by Sofia Coppola, the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola who wrote “The Godfather” movies.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film quite like “Lost in Translation”. I heard one review once that said it’s not so much a story as much as an “experience”. Basically, “Lost in Translation” follows two characters around during their short time in Tokyo, and whatever lessons we learn can only be figured out by the audience. Ironically, this movie won an Academy Award for its script! But even though there isn’t that much of a “story” in “Lost in Translation”, I’d like to share it with you anyway.
The main character we see throughout the film is Bob Harris (Bill Murray), an American actor going through a midlife crisis. His once thriving acting career has now been reduced to, well, doing commercials for whiskey in Japan, and working with directors who don’t speak a word of English and their interpreters who reduce lengthy directions to small ones. Stateside, Bob’s wife calls him blandly and tells him he missed his son’s birthday and that he needs to pick out new carpet for the house. By what we see, Bob and his wife do not have the thriving relationship that they once probably had together.
But we also see another couple who isn’t exactly thriving either, and they’ve only been married for a short time. Charlotte (Scarlet Johansson) is the new wife of a photographer named John (Giovanni Ribisi), who is so busy doing work in Tokyo that he has limited time to spend with his new bride, leaving Charlotte hanging out in her hotel room alone, missing her friends in the United States.
One night, Bob and Charlotte find themselves in the hotel bar, ordering a drink and conversing with each other. From the get-go, their relationship starts out very light-hearted. At the bar, Bob is even making jokes about getting out of Tokyo:
BOB: Can you keep a secret? I'm trying to organize a prison break. I'm looking for, like, an accomplice. We have to first get out of this bar, then the hotel, then the city, and then the country. Are you in or you out?
CHARLOTTE: I'm in. I'll go pack my stuff.
Eventually, Bob and Charlotte run into each other often, and on their nights alone, they go around Tokyo together, singing karaoke or having drinks. And their friendship, for both of them, is some of the best fun they’ve had in a long time. In a place where they’ve been so lonely and never thought they could find someone to love, even just as friends, they are able to find somebody else.
Their relationship isn’t without bumps, however, even if just for a short time. Bob wakes up one morning to find out that while intoxicated, he took the female singer at the bar to bed. Charlotte finds out, and there’s tension, even while they have lunch together that day. But that night, when they find themselves outside the hotel after a fire alarm goes off, they tell each other they’ve missed each other and make amends. And before Bob eventually has to return to the States, he finds Charlotte in the streets of Tokyo and kisses her goodbye.
I guess you have to just see “Lost in Translation” if you want to really feel the relationship between Bob and Charlotte. I haven’t really warmed up to this movie yet, but the one thing I did like about it is that it builds the relationship between the two without making anything seem forced or contrived. And the film shows a great example of two people who want to find love and find it—not physical lust, mind you, but a companion to spend time with and be yourself with.
As a young man, not falling into temptation of lust can be—no, is—very, very, hard. But deep down, I know that what I really want in a future girlfriend or wife isn’t someone who can just satisfy physical needs. That’s such a small part of what being in love is all about. Deep down, I know that the woman God wants for me should be someone who will be my companion, you know, “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health”. The relationship between my wife and me (if, Lord willing, I do end up marrying one day) should represent the pure, sacrificial relationship that Jesus has with His Church.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he has this to say to husbands: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” (5:25) I pray that if I do end up finding a companion one day, that I would be willing to commit myself to that sacrificial, honest, pure relationship. And whatever situation you find yourself in, single or married, I pray that God would give you the guidance to make that decision as well.