Culture shock in “Lost in Translation”
Lost in Translation is a 2003 american film directed by Sofia Coppola. Born in New York, she is the daughter of the famous film director Francis Ford Coppola (most known for “Apocalypse Now” and “The Godfather”). She has mainly Irish and Italian ancestry, along with some English (her father was of Irish descent, while her mother's family was Irish-American). Sofia grew up on the sets of her father's movies, often documenting the movie-making process. She loved traveling to such exotic film locations as Manila, located in the Philippines, where the filming of “Apocalypse Now” took place. The Coppola family spent there a lot of time, because of the ...view middle of the document...
In the movie characters are portrayed in many situations, which make it clear that they are experiencing symptoms of culture shock. We see Bob Harris having problems with understanding and adjusting to the newfound conditions since the very beginning of the film, e.g. When he is greeted by almost every member of the hotel staff in which he stays and receives gifts and name cards from Japanese people. It is easily noticable that he is not used to this kind of behaviour. It is also indicated that he is an alien in this culture in one of the first scenes of the movie where in an elevator he is surrounded by natives signifficantly shorter than him.
One of the reasons why newcomers feel uncomfortable in the host culture is the limited ability to communicate or complete lack of competence in speaking in a different language. Characters, especially Bob, have problems with communicating many times. For the first time during the shooting of the ad:
The Director (with blue contact lenses) says a few long
sentences in Japanese.
TRANSLATOR, a middle-aged woman in a coordinated outfit,
translates but it is only a short sentence now.
He wants you to turn, look in camera
and say the lines.
Bob wonders what she's leaving out, or if that's the way it
works from Japanese to English.
That's all he said?
Yes, turn to camera.
Bob thinks let's just get it over with.
Turn left or right?
The Translator blots her face with a tissue, and asks the
director in a Japanese sentence 5 times as long. The Director
answers her in a long excited phrase.
Right side. And with intensity.
Is that everything? It seemed like
he was saying a lot more.
The excited Director says more in Japanese. Translator nods
in understanding. Bob doesn't really know what's going on.
Like an old friend, and into the
To make the scene even more suggestive there are no English subtitles during the conversation between the director and the translator in Japenese. This allows the viewers to identify with the main character and gives a better understanding of the situation he found himself in. He is aware of the translators incompetence and knows that the director said and asked him for a lot more. However, his linguistic incompetence does not allow him to fully interact and take part in the exchange of ideas. He is at the mercy of a translator not able to properly express herself in English. Similar situations repeat throughout the movie, for instance in the next scene depicting making of the advertisement. This time Bob poses for a number of photograhies and is encouraged by the photographer to do various poses. The photographer's knowledge of English is very limited, in addition he has a strong accent which makes him hard to understand by Bob.
Another factor which contributes to experiencing culture...