Khalid Hosseini in The Kite Runner asks, ‘Is it harder to suffer the loss of a loved one than to suffer the loss of your entire universe?’ [And I do not quote verbatim here.] The question is an almost rhetoric before some thought is devoted to it, but I personally feel that the bereavement of your home, your surroundings, and your familiarity is a formidable loss. Because along with the structural domain you lose every single person, every single object of your affection contained within. Once you lose your foothold in your space, the disorientation can be overwhelming.
In Lost in Translation the protagonists Charlotte [Scarlet Johansson] and Bob [Bill Murray] have left their homes, their universe behind and have traveled halfway across the world to land in Japan. There is a scene where Bob is standing in an elevator, an entire foot higher than all the Japanese around him. And another [one of my favourites] where Charlotte watches a Japanese bride, a slight smile on her face, perhaps believing that marriages are easier in a different country. Their sense of loss and misgivings in an alien land is therefore explicable, yet is only completely understood once their personal stories are unraveled.
Theirs are not tragic stories, of an unhappy childhood or a loveless marriage. Bob is an actor with enough credibility to land up with an endorsement in Japan. While Charlotte is a Yale graduate who gets married to her sweetheart. We are exposed to no financial crises or domestic violence, no anger or fatalities. The only inkling of trouble in paradise is the explicit comfort of their respective spouses, comfort that tends to detach them from the sudden intensity of emotions that Bob and Charlotte experience in a foreign land.
That is one of the reasons I love the movie. I have friends who exclaim, “There is no story!” And they are right. It is not a conventional yarn with a beginning, a body and an ending. There is ONLY a body. Daily, prosaic events that leave in their wake indelible impressions and make a moment magical. When Bob and Charlotte are just lazing around in bed, talking about where they grew up, how difficult marriage can get, the excitement and terrible apprehension on becoming a parent…and they fall asleep with Bob’s hand resting tenderly on Charlotte’s foot. It is an ordinary gesture after an ordinary conversation, but it lends an extraordinary profundity to their relationship. Throughout the movie there is nothing remotely sexual about their relationship. Even when Bob sleeps with another woman, the jealousy that Charlotte feels is probably an outcome of her inadvertent possessiveness, she seeks solace from the fact they need each other in equal measure in a friendship that germinates from chronic insomnia and a discriminating loneliness.
The movie is “Slow!” because it is about two people who are in an alien land and nothing exciting is happening to them. I mean they are partying, getting shot at and singing with a rare abandon at the karaoke. But there is no passion, or wild sex or infidelity issues, which actually would be a forgivable sequence of events given the circumstances. Albeit the differences in their ages and lifestyles, they are brought together in a rare relationship of familiarity and comfort. The movie progresses in mellow hues and reflective undertones. Even when Charlotte is injured, it is a minor foot injury and warrants no excitement. Understated and beautiful.
My favourite scene in the movie is the last one where after the fumbling attempts to bid each other adieu, Bob spots Charlotte in a crowd and runs to her to say that final goodbye. He whispers something in her ear [I have no idea what! Believe me I have tried to listen] after hugging her close. And then he kisses her, and whatever he says to her becomes inconsequential because after days of communicating through words this is the first time he communicates through an intimate physical gesture. In that moment they both realize that ‘they have been found’ in the truest sense of the expression. And then they walk away, knowing they will never see each other again…
Real, rare and rapturous.
‘They went halfway across the world to come a full circle.’
I hope I have convinced you Pai ;-)
Oh and must note, Lost in Translation has a beautiful OST. I am guessing that’s signature Coppola.