Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Lost In Translation Script Breakdown

Dir- Sofia Coppola
Year – 2003
Running Time – 102 mins (approx)
Screen writing Genre – Rites of Passage

The Film

Lost in Translation came out of nowhere and introduced Scarlett Johansson to audiences in her break through role. It also gives Bill Murray to show a different side to acting ability. The film was nominated for a host of awards and won a total of three Baftas, three Golden Globes and the Oscar for best screenplay. Bill Murray also narrowly lost out to Sean Penn in the best actor category.

What’s in a name?

Lost in Translation is a very apt title for a film about two people not only in a strange country, but also who seem to have their wishes ignored by those around them. The title also sets the mood well and hints at the subtle comedy drama element of the movie.

What makes it great? 

There are some absolutely beautiful camera shots and some lovely long takes but the thing that really makes this film work is the dialogue and chemistry between the two leads. The characters of Bob and Charlotte are scripted and played perfectly and really make us care about them. Many of the scenes are simple conversations between the two of them and it is the power of the words that keeps us interested.

Lost in Translation as a Mid-Life Rites of Passage Movie

A rites of passage movie concerns stories about painful but necessary growth and the emotional journey someone takes to get through a difficult period in their life. They nearly always end with the hero realising that life must go and it just a case of “that’s life”.  The mid-life sub genre concerns people reaching a certain age and often reaching for something they feel will solve all their ills. Bob is clearly dealing with mid-life issues but, though much younger, so is Charlotte.


Opening Image – Although it is the first image, Charlotte on the bed alone is not the films real opening image. Our opening is Bill Murray looking tired in his cab on the way to the hotel.

Theme Stated – Bob is confronted with a parcel of floor samples at the hotel. Our theme concerns self identity and what we are meant to be. Is Bob meant to be foremost an Actor or Husband and Father? Charlotte is struggling with the same issues. Both are characters are currently in limbo and lost with the hotel representing a sort of limbo.

Set-Up – We meet Bob and look around the hotel. We learn he has a family and he is a movie star. We also meet Charlotte and see she is restless. We learn Bob is here to do an advert. We get the idea that both Bob and Charlotte are two lost souls.

Catalyst – Charlotte sends Bob a drink in the hotel bar.

Debate – Bob and Charlotte discuss why they are in Tokyo and what is happening in their lives. Charlotte jokes he is having a midlife crisis

B Story – comes before the break into two. Bob and Charlotte start their friendship and the love story.

Break into Two – Starts when Charlotte talks to Bob about a possible “prison break” and her husband leaves for a few days.

Fun and Games – At minute 40 Bob and Charlotte take on Tokyo together and grow closer over the course of the night. There is some seemingly innocent flirting over karaoke and Bob takes her home.

Midpoint – Bob gets a phone call from home, which puts him in a strange frame of mind and makes him feel he is no longer in a loving relationship.

Bad Guys Close In – The bad guy in this case could be time, as it’s running out for both Bob and Charlotte but the pace of film doesn’t really suit this. Instead the bad guy is the threat of sex and what it could do to both of them.

All is Lost – Bob sleeps with the lounge singer.

Dark Night of the Soul – Bob knows he has messed up, Charlotte is angry and Bob and Charlotte spend the day sniping at each other. 

Break into Three – The fire alarm at the hotel takes us into act three.

Finale – The question is raised as to if Bob should stay with Charlotte. The Jesus and Mary Chain song relates Bob conflict about walking away from the greatest girl he has ever known because it is the right thing to do.

There is a strange chase to the airport as Bob meets charlotte in the street and we get the iconic kiss.

Final image – Bob in the cab again, glad he came but knowing he is going home to his family and that it’s the right thing to do.

Interpreted via the theory and structure of Blake Snyder.

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