By Devin Casey (Lincoln, NE)
This film is, in short, a masterpiece.
It’s not a term I throw around lightly. And in fact many of my favorite movies fall short of earning that sort of praise. There are a select few films which I make a point to revisit on a regular basis, most of which end up being of the action, adventure, or sci-fi genres. The curious thing I have noticed though is that even the best of those lose their luster over time. Now I would never oppose a viewing of Gladiator, but the 20th screening loses a bit of its luster. Lost in Translation, however, never loses its effect.
It’s a strange thing for such a subdued film to have such a strong impact. There is no grand cathartic theme. No world changing stakes. No life altering tragedy. It falls into no specific genre. It isn’t a comedy, or a romance, or a hard hitting drama, it follows no typical arches. It boasts characters that aren’t characters at all. They are people who live in the real world, who have real world problems that are dealt with in real world ways, by which I mean they are ignored. Yet despite all of this, it is by far the most compelling film I have ever seen.
I love every moment of this movie, from the incredible awkwardness of the beginning to its heart wrenching ending. It’s a film that makes me both incredibly depressed and incredibly hopeful at the same time. A feat that you will have to take my word for is a great compliment. It’s also a film in which nearly nothing happens for the duration of its runtime. It is instead, a series of moments shared between two characters who share a commonality. They are alone, stuck in a strange city filled with strange people. But its more than that, they are emotionally disconnected from their lives. That disconnect is what drives the film. In a world interconnected in such a way that everyone is a click away from everyone else, it is a concept that seems strange at first. But it’s also one that most people can identify with. Even the most popular and successful of us feel alone at times.
So all of that and still no mention of the films greatest strength. It’s casting. Never before have I seen two more perfectly selected leads. Bill Murray delivers what I consider to be the best performance of his career as an out of touch, declining actor milking the last of his celebrity overseas. Scarlett Johansson likewise gives the performance of her career as a despondent newlywed searching for her identity. As unlikely as this pairing is on paper, the chemistry they shared onscreen is undeniable, and is a saving grace for a film which easily could have come across as inappropriate or weird. Their performances are even more incredible when you factor in that we learn nearly nothing about them. Their interactions are limited to long silences and vague generalities. But we know all we need to from their glances and body language. It’s the most fundamental form of acting, and by far the most difficult.
In my mind, this is easily one of the best films I have ever seen. And given the vast number of films I have seen, should be counted among the best films ever made. I recommend it to anyone with a pulse.