Films are used to portray social and psychological trends in society through the use of various cinematographic techniques and tools. Some authorities identify that the role of women in society is portrayed through their roles and the kind of stories they feature in – this include linking women’s fortunes, power and status in society and showing it in a film.
The purpose of this paper is to examine the film, Lost in Translation within a feminist context. To this end, the paper will critique whether the film in question really “depicts a woman’s struggle to find a signifying system for her individuality, desire and intellect” or not.
The paper will commence by critiquing the main setting of the film and how it relates to the characters and their inner essence. This will lead to the focalization and other cinematic techniques that were used and how well they actually portrayed the elements of the story and how this links to a feminist narrative.
Whether Charlotte was a Sex Object or Not
Charlotte is presented as a married woman who was free and liberated. A decent woman in the 21st Century terms. Hence, she is not cast as a sex object. She was not under any kind of guardianship and she was certainly not required to live like the traditional housewife as films relating to women in the 1950s and 60s projected women. The marriage came with many liberties and she was viewed as a woman who was free.
The title of the film is “lost in translation”. This shows the fact that Charlotte was lost in a strange country where there is a language and culture that was alien to her. However, she had a life that was based on independence and her right to leave the confines of her hotel. She is not portrayed as a woman starving or seeking sex.
On another level though, the phrases “lost in translation” indicates that in a modern society, Charlotte was not a complete woman. And this is where the conflict of the film is observed. The conflict is about the fact that Charlotte is going through an internal conflict. A kind of conflict that every woman goes through and this creates an area where a modern husband has to modify his ways to provide the right kinds of support and understanding.
Although Charlotte has her independence and she is showered with wealth and luxury, the inner conflict in her life was depicted by the fact that she was lost in her life in Tokyo. Obviously, Charlotte and her husband had major communication barriers and this was worsened by the fact that her husband had to work hard and stay away from her for long periods at a time.
Therefore, the title seem to show how much a woman is limited and prevented from being herself and being sexualised excessively in a film for obvious rating requirements. This presented Charlotte as a sexual figure and created a kind of expectation in the mind of the viewers who wanted to see more about her and this created an expectation for a romantic encounter.
Thus, in summary, Charlotte was trying to cultivate self-affection and self- expression and was at the crossroads as opposed to being viewed as a sex doll. She was seeking inquiry into her very inner essence and was unsure about many things around her. Charlotte had regrets within her and her deeper fears were coming out and needed some kind of reassurance and guidance in life. This creates the conflict which creates a psychological and mental barrier that complicates the social exclusion that Charlotte is destined to go through in a foreign country.
Comparison of Kelly with Charlotte
Kelly is presented as a more modern lady who is focused on John (Charlotte’s husband). In their first encounter, Kelly is shown making full eye contact on John whilst Charlotte looks at her quietly. Kelly is viewed as a hippie and a free spirited person who is only interested in what she wants – fun and being at the top all the time.
On the other hand, Charlotte is shown as a traditional woman. A modern wife figure. Although she is not viewed as the traditional woman of the 1950s, Charlotte is rather modern and can be seen as a woman who lives in the luxury of her time. However, she has values and seem to consider some things like family life and making the right choices for the future.
Kelly however cares about the now. She is focused on fun and does not seem to have the kind of values that will prevent her from sleeping with a married man. She asks for John to photograph her in the presence of his wife. Which is unusual for a woman. John on the other hand seems obsessed with her and becomes confused possibly due to some past sexual encounters. This sexualises her significantly and there is genuine concern that is shown by Charlotte in relation to Kelly.
Focalization and EGALITARIANISM OF CINEMATICS
Lost in Translation presents various themes and scenes relating to the use of cinematic techniques and processes that were utilised in telling the story. The story is rather straightforward – Charlotte, a married woman was not getting enough attention from her husband. She had inner fears and sentiments and needed someone to create some kind of a sympathetic ear and connection. Due to the fact that she is in a foreign country, she is further distanced from anyone else and could not have female friends and other kinds of associates with whom she can share inner fears. So she ends up getting attracted to an aged and out-of-style actor who is also in need of companionship.
This narration could make for a lame stage play. However, the use of various advanced techniques in filming caused the film to depict the emotional, psychological and social exclusion in a very constructive and eventful manner. The most obvious trend is that the focalization is egalitarian in outlook. This is because the arrangement of the scenes show the different challenges the two of them are going through. Whilst Charlotte’s situation and circumstances are mainly feminine in outlook, and as such, could be presented in a straightforward manner without much elaboration.
Charlotte is shown to be disturbed and neglected. Just whiling away her time and not finding anything meaningful to do. She was therefore looking for some kind of activities that will help her to realize some of her inner desires and expectations and desires
There is equal spread of focalization. This is depicted by the use of crosscutting as a means of creating and stirring up emotions in the viewer. The scenes are blended side by side and different reactions and processes are carried out by the two parties in different contexts and different circumstances in order to present their worldview and their ideas.
The process begins with the presentation of Charlotte on an isolated bus. This gives the viewer certain kinds of impressions. First of all, she is travelling at a time of the day where there is no one in Tokyo willing to travel. This is more like travelling around 10am. She goes to a shrine where she has no friends and she observes the imperialist and patriarchal elements of the Japanese treatment of women and how women are styled and placed in certain specific roles that women are casted in Japan. This shows the contrast and the difference between Charlotte and the Japanese society where women are put into specific roles and specific activities.
The film shows the emptiness in the life of the two in the luxury hotel. First of all, Charlotte’s lonely domestic life is shown. Her poor attempt at external activities at the pool and in the bus is shown. On the other hand, the emptiness in Bob’s life is shown by his out-of-touch kind of life and circumstances.
The camera is focused on showing the landscape and capturing different parts of Tokyo as a means of bringing out the emotional feelings and putting it in the context of the viewer. Thus, Charlotte is cast in many scenes sitting alone in her hotel window, checking the entire skyline of Tokyo and Kyoto with her hands hugging her knees. The panoramic view of the city at night and in times of desolations like the early morning shows how lonely and this creates empathy with the viewer and there is a strong connection and personalisation of the situation.
Charlotte was imbalanced. Her life is depicted as a life that is full of errors and inaccuracies and incompleteness. This is shown by the fact that shots of the camera depicted her as being improper and being empty. There are errors and everything about her life is wrong on many levels. This is something that cannot be easily documented. However, through cinematic techniques and processes, there was the possibility to improve. This is demonstrated in the improvement and enhancement that came into her life when she made contact to a man.
The professional use of the camera and shots and misc-en-scene amongst others creates an emotional connection to the viewer. The conflict of the two is unified through the crosscutting and the sequence of scenes showing how their lives in Tokyo different differently. However, this is also cast in a broader context of the Japanese society which was full of very serious people in the hotels and spheres of life the two of them lived in Tokyo.
However, in the lift, the two conflicting personalities come together and because of their commonality of being persons of European origin, they notice each other and through various gestures, they are able to connect and eventually notice each other and begin to communicate.
One of the pointers the cinematic techniques present indicate that although the woman of the 21st Century is free and without any chains and limitations on her, there are some very important and vital things like emotional satisfaction and inner peace which a woman needs. Thus, what this hints to the viewer is that although feminism has been successful in removing the patriarchal grip on women. However, some inner elements and aspects of women are yet to be understood by men. And this is the need for some kind of inner emotional and psychological matters that can only be achieved through patience, companionship and communication.
Cinematic excesses is about the way and means through which the film brings together various pointers to emphasise a given situation in order to create a logical flow through which the story is told.
There are various angles and depictions of Charlotte being naked in her room, jumping into a swimming pool and sleeping naked that shows a sexual twist to the entire film. This shows that although society has advanced, the sexualisation of female figures in films is still something that is in vogue in the movie industry. And as such, it can be identified to be a part of our generation’s quest for financial gains based on the sexual images men have of women.
Thus, it is concluded that although the character of Charlotte is not one of a sex object, the portrayal by the cinematic techniques does that to the viewer – particularly the male viewer to create some degree of interest and suspense. This is known in feminist perspective as masculine signification. It is integrated to keep the viewer guessing how Bob will end up with Charlotte.
SexualiSation of the Female Body & FEMININE MASQUERaDE
The feminine journey is often masked. First of all, it can be identified from the plot that Charlotte has a feminine masquerade in seeking her individuality and her sense of personhood. She is trying to define what will make her a responsible person in society and improve to serve her generation and society better. Thus, she is doing her best, asking questions and seeking connection with someone who will play a companionate role in her life rather than a patriarchal role. Thus, she is trying to find meaning and this is not based on thinking in the context of sex all the time.
On the other hand, some of the women in the film seem to be extremely sexualized. First of all, Kelly is cast in clothes that presents her as a sexual idol. This is part of the suspicions of Charlotte and the sexualisation of her and her activities make Charlotte feel her marriage is in danger. Since Charlotte is looking for a deeper meaning in life, she seeks a companionate connection with Bob, but not a sexual one. One might think she would have wanted to find sexual satisfaction elsewhere to get back at her husband and Kelly. On the other hand, she seeks guidance, conversation and connection with someone else and this kind of characteristic is found in Bob.
The second party who is involved in over-sexualisation is the hotel’s jazz singer who tries to seduce Bob. She goes to Bob’s room and tries to get Bob to have a sexual encounter with her. This is done by presenting sexual acts that were meant to attract Bob. However, as an evidence to the fact that Bob is ideal for Charlotte, he refuses it and builds a companionate relationship which also helps him to get a better and enhanced quality of life.
Age Difference and the Relationship between Bob and Charlotte
Bob uses some fatherly artistic methods and processes to help Charlotte to answer some riddles of human existence and utilises open minded approaches that are different form the simplistic, moralistic and condescending approach used by patriarchal figures. In the past 50 years where women were under subjugation by male patriarchal figures, the woman was to be treated as a person who could not think and as such, there were some simplistic and order-oriented systems where women were to do things they were told. Women were to just adhere to these instructions and this complemented the old system whereby women were to stay in a home as a housewife only to take instructions from their husbands who were seen as more superior people.
However the portrayal of Lost in Translation shows that women still have that need to be heard and treated with some kind of communication linkages and social connections. This is viewed in classical Freudian thought where there are numerous explanations and concepts that can explain circumstances.
Freud’s “first-man” hypothesis defines a kind of man who provides a woman with answers to all her deeper questions which helps her to develop her understanding of self and the assurance and guarantee of protection from dangers. This concept is premised on the fact that a woman is almost always socialised with a strong father-figure who builds some kind of non-sexual bond with her and lead to a constructive relationship.
It is alternatively viewed as an oedipal wing that was provided by Bob and this created a kind of completeness that complements Charlotte to make her whole again. Therefore, the relationship was one of a father-figure kind of situation.
It is identified that “the wrongness of the relationship is corrected by the cultural positioning and the circumstances that made the two parties come together”. Therefore, the things that were missing and different from each of them came back together and this led to a relationship that was strong and provided the main things women want from men.
Authorities identify that there are two kinds of love – companionate love and passionate love. Companionate love is a form of love that involves the creation of a relationship based on communication, connection and linkages whilst passionate love is based on the emotions and romantic excitement. However, whilst passionate love often dies with the romance of a relationship, companionate love lasts longer and is promoted and enhanced through stronger communication and better connection.
The End in Cinematic Techniques
The story does not end with a specific conclusion. The viewer is left to guess what Bob told Charlotte in the final scene. This has various connotations. First of all, one will assume that Charlotte is being told what is best for her or something that will help her to find her way. It can also be accurate to assume that Charlotte will figure out that the marriage she is in will either need a strong reformation or the relationship will have to collapse naturally.
On another angle, it could be assumed that Bob told Charlotte what he was feeling about her and kissed her to confirm it. This would naturally mean that they might reunite and seek better meanings and deeper meanings of life as a couple since they both have reasons to quit their current relationships for this relationship that leads to more completeness and promotes a more enlightened life for both of them.
However, the greatest implication of the way the film ended is the fact that it promotes the idea that there are more things to life than just sex and being with the one you genuinely love. It portrays a common problem in modern society where a man and a woman marry and cannot work out the relationship and link their desires. In this process, they meet other people who provide more meaningful life for each of them. This leads to extramarital affairs that eventually causes the relationship to collapse.
The research indicates that Lost in Translation depicts the current status of women in the modern world. This film shows that women’s rights has made some progress over the years. The film shows a liberal American woman who has gained her right to a happy and independent life free of major patriarchal controls and limits of a housewife that came with being a woman in America in the 1950s and 60s.
However, in spite of the advancement, there are still some inner desires women have for their own lives and circumstances that are often taken for granted by their husbands. This is depicted in the life of Charlotte in Lost in Translation. This is shown by an inner struggle and a desire for individuality and intellect which she was deprived of sharing with her husband due to his busy schedule.
The essence of the discussion and message of the film is that women are of a nature whereby their inner desires and inner quest for certain things must be respected. Today’s society does not seem to have men who have that kind of desire to give attention and guide their wives to go through this. In such a situation, the film has shown that a woman might want a father-figure – a kind of companionate love that will help a woman to uncover her inner needs and essence and work to achieve them through different means. This includes the improvement and enhancement of communication and the promotion of better methods of dealing with issues and constant contact. This desire is not sexual, but emotional, psychological and mental. This provides the best of balance and desire for such women.
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