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Article – Say, What?


Posted April 26, 2014 by

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Say, What?

Sometimes in the world of movies, there are some things better left unsaid. Often there is a character or plot that you love so dearly, that is promptly ruined by an idiotic line of dialogue, or perhaps the final line takes the characters’ story into a whole other direction. Some moviegoers undoubtedly loathe an ambiguous ending – I am usually one of them frankly – but sometimes the idea that you will never know is too delicious for your brain to forget. Then there you are weeks later at a party talking to your friend of a friend’s pet cat and you recall the end of that film, that film that you were so frustrated at initially has stayed with you in a way that other films never manage to do.

Of course there is a particular film I am referring to, the ethereal urban jungle that Sofia Coppola created in Lost in Translation – the tale of two nobody’s drifting through one of the most heavily populated cities in the world, Tokyo, totally alone. They are, in fact, more than alone, they are lonely, distracting themselves with anything other than happiness, existing. Then they meet each other and a breath of life is given to them both and for fleeting moments in that city, they are alive again. They know and we know that this chance encounter is a fleeting one, we also don’t know if it is romantic or just a strive for human connection. I’ve always felt the latter, but that is the beauty of this enigmatic screen connection, it is thoroughly ambiguous. Nothing more so than the finale on the streets of Tokyo, as Bob leans into Charlotte and whispers something in her ear – we never hear what is said, we are never supposed to hear. We have been given a window into the lives of our protagonists and there are some things that should be kept secret, what they shared on that busy street is sacred for them both and something we are not supposed to understand.

So what do we think was said? If we’re thinking about film plots and the tropes that they follow, here are some of my thoughts on what was whispered on that street in Tokyo:

1. “I love You.” – It had to be a viable option right? If that was what’s being said, then how did he say it? Was it through friendship, lust or actual down-to-his-core love?

2. “You suck at Karaoke.” Well, maybe Bob was actually a bit vicious underneath it all?

3. “[whispers a whimiscal Japanese proverb]” An extemely likely option I think and I like to think he’d learnt it just for Charlotte and that was a moment she knew – even though they’d probably never see eachother again – that things were going to be okay.

If you could step into that scene, would you want to know what was being said? Or would you be terrified of ruining a perfect moment of ambiguity? If I’m pushed for an answer, I think he says nothing at all. Nothing. He says nothing and Charlotte’s smile comes from her own realisation that she’s become human again and that she may not have her life figured out, but at least she isn’t afraid anymore. The tagline for the film is ‘Everyone wants to be found,’ and I think a contented sigh from Bob in Charlotte’s ear reveals more than words would ever be able to accomplish. Did they find themselves, or just each other? Who rescued who? Charlotte and Bob may have gone on to find themselves, living lives happily, or perhaps they plunged into a spiral of depression again, in a different city totally alone. That of course, is the power of the unsaid, the unheard and secrets. I for one, would rather have three dimensional characters whom for everything is a mystery, rather than being overwhelmed by the dull colours of a flat character who I do not care for.

Perhaps Bob simply whispered, “Silence is Golden,” and Charlotte spent her life as a mute. That is the beauty of the human imagination and enigmatic filmmaking. Cryptic, huh?

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Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 19.50.36

Georgie Barron
Freelance Contributor


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