Alphabetical Movie – Lost in Translation
There is a shot at the end of Lost in Translation when Bill Murray whispers something into Scarlett Johansson’s ear. We don’t get to hear what he says because the moment is a private one. What was said is not so important as the idea that Murray manages to open up to someone, if only for a short time.
I find it interesting that so many people have spent so much time trying to figure out what Murray said. As if that will unlock a deeper understanding of the film.
Lots of theories exist and, as with most such things, none of those theories are more interesting than that private exchange we don’t get to share.
I think there is some sort of insatiable desire to know the unknowable. Watching a movie is a voyeuristic experience. As such, we feel we are entitled to know everything The movie should keep no secrets from us. And yet the final shot of the film is one big secret.
So we slow down the film and watch it frame by frame to see if we can read Murray’s lips.
Or we use audio technology to enhance Murray’s voice to see if we can figure out what the heck he’s talking about.
Or we ask the director and actors what was said. Over and over again.
Mystery bugs us. These characters are not allowed to have secrets.
Last year, I wrote a play called “Shroedinger’s Apocalypse” and the central issue was the question of whether or not the zombie apocalypse was still happening. I trapped my characters in a place where they had to make decisions without any information. When the play was over, I didn’t reveal the answer to that fundamental question my characters were trying to answer.
After the show, the most common question anyone asked was what happened next. I told them the honest answer – I didn’t know.
The choice the characters made at the end of the show was important. The result of making that choice was not. So I didn’t make up my mind what happened next. I left it open to the audience. The answer frustrated some people because they really wanted to know!
That’s exactly what is going on at the end of Lost in Translation. The creator is leaving the audience with a question to which an answer will not be supplied.
Or rather, they are asking the audience to supply that answer themselves. What is, I think, poignant about that moment is that it could be so many different things. Each one of them is interesting and, quite possibly, more interesting than what Murray actually said.
Hell, he could have just been whispering “hubbub hubbub hubbub.” Wouldn’t it suck to find that out?
I realize that not everyone likes ambiguity. I enjoy creative projects that let me fill in a few of the blanks. I guess it feels like respect for my intelligence.