Found in Translation: Sofia Coppola’s Romance without Words

Revisiting the director’s breakthrough film without the dialogue.
By  · Published on January 2nd, 2017

Revisiting the director’s breakthrough film without the dialogue.

Love, if it is true, has no language. True love is communicated by unspoken things: meaningful glances, impactful silences, unknowable emotions. True love is a feeling, it is a state of being and not necessarily intended to be communicated to those who aren’t in it with you. True love is unique, it is as individual as those under its spell, and it is distinct every single time it happens, like a snowflake: no two loves are alike.

Take Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation: most everyone who has seen it would agree that it is far from your typical romance, not just because of the May-December age difference between Charlotte and Bob, but because it’s not overtly romantic, there’s no great love affair depicted in the film, just two lonely people getting to know each other and in the process abolishing some of their loneliness. Are they in love at picture’s end? That’s open to interpretation, but for myself, I like to think they are, though not in that kind of all-consuming, passionate way we typically equate with love, but perhaps something deeper, something more meaningful, and something that was never supposed to ignite in passion but instead was meant to sustain them as they separate and get back to their actual lives.

But regardless of the destiny of their relationship, there is no denying the impact Bob and Charlotte have upon each other. Theirs is most certainly a true love, if not a romantic one, and that was demonstrated most deftly by the actors not via the Oscar-winning dialogue of Ms. Coppola, but in the unspoken moments, the shared, pregnant pauses in their conversations, the knowing looks and lingering glances between them, and, in short, the comfortable silences in which they co-exist.

Last month we brought you a video from Cinemablend in which all the dialogue had been removed from particular scenes of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction to reveal the power of that film found between the – again – Oscar-winning dialogue. This time around, Lost in Translation gets the same treatment with similar results: a powerful story made more so by what isn’t said, but rather by what is communicated in raw emotion between the actors and the silences they assume. The result is an eloquent and emotionally verbose few scenes that remind us there’s more to love than expected platitudes and heartfelt expressions; sometimes it’s what we don’t say that boasts of our love the loudest.

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