Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

I have always wanted to go to Japan.

We did a whole big project on it at infants school, but I think I assumed then that it would never happen. In those days, foreign countries were places that a few lucky adults got to go to.

To prove the point, Japan was also featured in a special summer Blue Peter Flies The World series on TV. Today I can only remember one line from it – about how hot it was and how inviting the residents' private swimming pools looked. It seemed like a very rich and clean place.

In 2004 it actually looked like it was going to happen. The very first time I flew to New Zealand they showed the film Lost In Translation on the flight, but I avoided it, because my plan was to see it properly at a theatrical release down under. (in the end I slowly blinked through The Passion Of The Christ instead – not a smart move on day one of 24-hour jet-lag)

So this morning I finally loaded-up a DVD of Lost In Translation and pressed play.

And it was quite definitely not the film that I had been looking forward to watching for four years.

A clever Hollywood comedy starring hapless Bill Murray in a series of ridiculous situations as he hilariously tries to escape from modern-day Japan?

No, this was much better than that.

No-one ever told me this film was a drama. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson play two tortured souls trapped in marriages that have become cages. In a hotel in Tokyo at the same time, they randomly meet and don't have an affair with each other. Or do they?

That's not a question about whether or not they have sex with each other, it's a question about just what sort of a relationship does take place. The DVD billing calls it a friendship (probably because they don't have sex, and there's about 30 years difference between them) but the more simple fun they have together, it's clear that they're both in over their heads. Neither tells their spouse about the other. They're both happier and more open with each other. And at the end of the film they have to say goodbye and return to their lives, suffering the loss of each other, knowing that there was nothing more that it could ever have become.

Lost In Translation is an absolutely charming film, which paints very, very believable people distracting themselves as they somehow shuffle through life from one day to the next. The acting is faultless, and the script so simple that it never has the opportunity to go wrong.

As is usually the case, the DVD's deleted scenes go nowhere and contribute little, but the same is true of almost every scene that was included too. And I mean that in a good way. If you're willing to invest about two hours of your life to see this pondering film anyway, then you may as well watch it all in the right order. Really - it can't get much slower. Alas, this release offers no such extended option.

You can't help but feel sorry for both Bob and Charlotte. You want to tell them to be positive and try to sort their marriages out, but their earlier bad choices are hurting them so much that the film also makes part of you wish they could somehow be free again. Not to be with each other, just free.

The ending is a shame, but it's understandable because it's born out of the secrecy that I mentioned earlier.

As for what they said to each other, I read it as some sort of promise to occassionally still support each other back in the real world, but such an ambiguous ending invites many interpretations.

Lost In Translation makes you feel like you've just spent a very, very real week in Tokyo.


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