Like any art, film is a form of personal expression and can reveal a lot of information about an individual. Although it seems like these films are made in far off fantastical places by hundreds of names that scroll by us at the end of the film, the themes and ideas they project often are the property of one mind. In the case of this week’s comparison, two film’s made ten years apart are so specific in their thoughts and details that they offer us insight into a private affair between two prolific filmmakers while still allowing us, the audience, to apply their mistakes to our own life. The films in discussion here are Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation and her former husband Spike Jonze’s film Her. The reason in which I choose to discuss both of these films together as a double feature is because while on their own each film is very strong and poignant in what they set out to say, together they are able to reaffirm the others ideas by each making the same points even though each filmmaker is telling their side of the story.
Sofia’s film, Lost in Translation presents the audience with two people, Bob and Charlotte, who are in very different age groups but very similar predicaments with their lovers. Over the course of their stay at the same hotel in Tokyo, the two spend time together and form a bond that allows them to come to realizations about their relationships and better understand the world around them. On paper, it seems like this film has been made a million times. I mean think about how many films have you seen where two people get along with one another but cannot be together because of age differences or because they are in a relationship. Perhaps even some of you can start to pinpoint scenes that this type of film would normally have a point where the friends of the younger girl shun the older man, one where the husband finds out about the older man and fights him, or maybe even a sex scene between the two characters that breaks down the differences that exist between the two. Now what sets Lost in Translation apart from its contemporaries is that it does not contain any of these scenes one would expect, as it is not interested in exploring the physical characteristics of love. In fact, the film deliberately does the opposite of what one would expect. When Bob, the older man meets Charlotte’s friends the age gap is not only not an issue, but is not even discussed or acknowledged. Not to mention the common fighting over the same woman trope does not even come into play at all in the film, as Bob never even had contact with Charlotte’s husband John in the film. But the biggest stride Lost in Translation takes from its love story roots is that it does not contain a sex scene between the two leads. The absence of this scene affirms to the audience that the bond Bob and Charlotte form with one another has no bearing on their physical states and highlights to the audience that the connection they found in each other, and not in their spouses, is a mental one. That is why later in the film when Bob has sex with the hotel singer, Charlotte is upset because now they must each acknowledge each other’s physical state and that is when issues occur. Therefore, making clear to the audience that while Charlotte and Bob mentally satisfy one another perfectly, there is a physical element to love that remains personally and not by society no matter how hard one tries to block it out.
Based off the circumstances, one would imagine that when your ex-wife makes a film about the issues that existed in your relationship, your film in response would deny her allegations and instead you would be able to express your issues, but again things are not what one would assume. While this contrast would also make an interesting discussion we are again treated to the opposite of what we imagined in Spike’s Her where he affirms the themes present in Lost in Translation. The story of Her is about a sensitive man named Theodore and his romantic relationship with his female computer operating system, Samantha. Like Lost in Translation this film reeks of stereotypical scenes that we have seen a million times but it also goes a completely different way. During the course of Theodore and Samantha’s relationship the two do not experience any stigma from the rest of society like one would imagine and while the two do have sex, it is not shown on screen. Instead of dealing with the physical dimensions of their relationship the film spends two hours dealing with the mental connection that the two experience and the feelings that are evoked when the two are with one another. But like Bob and Charlotte, Theodore and Samantha are forced to confront their physical differences eventually, which results in tension between the two when they attempt to bring a surrogate partner into the relationship to simulate physicality. Ultimately the physical difference between the characters is too much as Samantha is able to exist in a place beyond the comprehension of humans and the two must go separate ways. After this occurs towards the end of the film, Theodore finds solace in his human friend Amy asserting to the audience that even though he mentally was connected with Samantha at the end of the day there is a non tangible physical element that can not be created by a computer.
Together both of these films make one question their own thoughts on the physical and mental aspects of love but at the end they make apparent to the audience that even though both Sofia and Spike were deep emotional people that were looking for a mental bond with one another they just were not at the right place to be with one another. Ultimately what makes these films so appealing is that both artists are able to keep the details and thoughts their characters present so personal to one another while also making them relatable to the audiences watching the film so that thy can understand their struggles. But maybe this is just too much analysis and their relationship cannot really be understood by two films, and their relationship ended because of a fight over wanting to cast Scarlet Johansson for each of their films.
Thank you for visiting Celluloid Cinema, please leave your thoughts in the comments below.