Mobile menu

Off topic: Lost in Translation: is Japan really like that?
Thread poster: Alexandru Pojoga

Alexandru Pojoga
Local time: 10:13
Japanese to English
+ ...
Apr 7, 2004

I've gone to see Lost in Translation for the second time today. Besides being an amazing film in itself, I liked the fact that it's set in Japan.

To our esteemed colleagues who live there (and are not originally Japanese), how do you find life in Japan?

Expensive, yes, perhaps crammed, but what about the emotional environment? To me, and I may well be alone in this, a place of some desolation is much more stimulating than an active, 'go-go' one.

Of course the way it's portrayed in the movie doesn't mean at all that it's barren or emotionally void -- in fact there are some wonderful scenes in there. And, come to think of it, any modern city anywhere has the same barrenness and neon-light superficiality, and the whole point of the movie is that love is what you make of it.

Sorry for the rambling, I'm still under the influence of it.

Direct link Reply with quote
ALAIN COTE  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:13
Japanese to French
Historical context... and some opinions Apr 8, 2004

I found a short article in The Japan Times Weekly ONLINE.

... and some opinions in JAPAN TODAY'S forum ( ).

Here is the specific url for the discussion about Lost in translation :


Direct link Reply with quote

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:13
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
How about the title? Apr 8, 2004

Has anybody an opinion, why the title is 'Lost in Translation'? What is lost?

Direct link Reply with quote

Jean-Luc Dumont  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:13
English to French
+ ...
Poor communication Apr 8, 2004

What is lost in translation?

The main character is a "known" movie actor, played by Bill Murray, paid 2 million dollars to come to Japan (Tokyo) for the shooting of a Suntory whiskey commercial.
He does not want to be there and feels and shows no interest nor much respect for Japanese culture and differences at first. He seems a bit lost and frustrated in this "foreign" environment. Like some, too many, people "travelling" for business, it looks like the only thing he will do after work is drinking at the bar of his fancy "international" hotel.

The first layer of "Lost in translation" is about the difficulty to communicate between cultures (language barrier) the following layers are mostly about the lack of communication or inability to communicate in certain situations (between husband and wife (he is married and obviously his "marriage" is not happy, based on his phone calls to his wife), and the difficulty to express or communicate feelings between a man and woman, and generations. The story is mainly about his meeting this young, "half-his-age" woman in the hotel were both are staying. She is recently married but has serious doubts about her own marriage since she and her self-centered immature husband are so different.

There are a few examples of "language barrier" situations as the 2 main characters go out to different places in Tokyo and meet some Japanese people. Many situations about the difficulty to express feelings and communicate them. But they gradually learn how to "talk" to each other as they (the young woman mostly) also discover some aspects of Japanese culture and life that they appreciate

There is really one situation where something is lost in translation.
During the shooting of the commercial, the young Japanese director, who uses clichés of Hollywood cinema and names of movie stars of the 50's to try to be friendly and sound cool with Bill Murray's character tells him what he wants him to do : basically to sit in a nice armchair and look content sipping his warm golden brown whiskey in a sensual and virile way like an American actor of the 50's would have done. So he speaks for 2 minutes in Japanese, giving him instructions on what he is looking for and expects. His female assistant/interpreter just says to Bill Murray's character something like : he said "drink and smile". So 2 minutes of directorial "comments" are translated by "drink and smile". Bill Murray, who is bored and frustrated with the whole situation, is therefore at a loss to do some(any)thing that the Japanese director may like (I was not convinced by the acting, here, I must say)...

There is another scene about the way Japanese people are known to mispronounce the "r" sound. One night a woman, no longer a young "orchid" but into domination games knocks at Bill Murray's door. She is apparently paid by Bill Murray's client to "entertain" him. He is obviously not interested and does not know how to tell her as she screams : "Lick (or lip) my stocking !" So he thinks, so do we, until we realize she means "Rip my stocking" !

Voilà. A lot of "deep" silence for lack of better words (pun intended) in that movie or "non-dits" to sound even deeper, as we say in French. Making fun of stereotypes and clichés when not using them...


[Edited at 2004-04-08 16:54]

Direct link Reply with quote

Lydia Smith
Local time: 08:13
French to English
+ ...
A bit...but didn't like the film Apr 8, 2004

Perhaps we should ask Henry...

I worked in Tokyo for 2 years and had a great time. The Japanese are a bundle of contradictions like any nation. They are quite similar to British people in some ways with their reserved manner and sexual hypocrisy.

Anyway, I could go on about my impressions of Tokyo forever, but as regards the film, it was a big waste of time. Pretentious, dull and quite offensive in places, and not funny at all. Japan is a bit like that, but to me it seemed very much to be from an American\'s eyes, as if it was their first taste of a culture different from their own. The lead female character pouted her way through the film and I didn\'t get any chemistry between her and Bill Murray (is he really that ugly?!)
The only thing I liked was all the shots of Tokyo, but I could have gone home and looked at my old photos instead!
But that\'s just me, obviously a lot of people loved it...

Direct link Reply with quote
Haluk Levent Aka
Local time: 10:13
Japanese to Turkish
+ ...
Everything Apr 8, 2004

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

Has anybody an opinion, why the title is 'Lost in Translation'? What is lost?

It is "lost in translation" because, for instance, many notions of the photograher was lost in translation. Remember how photographer talked about two minutes and interpreter -supposedly, briefed up everything to 4 words? There were many other things lost in translation/interpretation. Poor man visited Japan and didn't get any kick out of the country most of the time because everything was lost in translation.

And I was lost in "lost in translation". I didn't get the movie at all.

Direct link Reply with quote

To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

Moderator(s) of this forum
Fernanda Rocha[Call to this topic]

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Lost in Translation: is Japan really like that?

Advanced search

Déjà Vu X3
Try it, Love it

Find out why Déjà Vu is today the most flexible, customizable and user-friendly tool on the market. See the brand new features in action: *Completely redesigned user interface *Live Preview *Inline spell checking *Inline

More info »
Translators like you are producing higher quality translations faster with Lilt!

After years of research at Stanford University, Lilt has introduced a revolutionary new tool that will change the way you translate. Lilt learns how you translate to give you more personalized suggestions. Be more productive today! Use it FOR FREE!

More info »

All of
  • All of
  • Term search
  • Jobs