Minimalism in Film: Lost In Translation

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Lost In Translation has long been one of my favorite films, and while I always picked up on a theme of Charlotte and Bob being alienated by the loud celebrity and consumer culture around them, I have never been able to describe it in a satisfactory way.

Crash Course Film Criticism, pulling on the ideas of critic/scholar Todd McGowan released an incredible episode on Lost in Translation this week.

I recommend you go over and watch the full episode on youtube, but I will also share a few of the ideas and quotes here.

Bob and Charlotte are able to connect during their stay…precisely because they each realize that the excess that bombards them throughout Tokyo conceals a fundamental absence.

Todd McGowan

Both Bob and Charlotte have a spouse, Bob’s wife seems to be ignoring the issues in her marriage to obsess over carpet samples, and Charlotte’s husband is mesmerized by the glamour and celebrities he encounters as a photographer.

Bob and Charlotte connect in the quiet spaces, building their relationship on deep conversations and a shared sense of humor. Their relationship never crosses the line into infidelity, which I think is important. It shows that even though their feelings are developing into what would typically be a physical relationship, it is the mental connection, and not the physical one, that matters – because it is the mental connection that both are missing.

When Bob does commit infidelity (with another woman) he immediately regrets it. Reinforcing the point that the absence he feels is one of understanding, and not purely sexual or lustful.

This feeling of being isolated in a world where increasingly our ‘choice’ is a choice to buy rather than a choice on how to live or even how to think, is at the core of minimalist philosophy. We are lead to believe that fulfillment comes from a big house or celebrity status when it fact fulfillment looks more like a conversation and coffee with someone who truly understands you.

This is a gorgeous film that I highly recommend!

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