Credit dackelprincess via Flickr licensed under CC 2.0

Life through a soundtrack: Lost in Translation

By Leila Edelsztien

Writer Leila Edelsztien reflects on her ever changing relationship with the soundtrack of the film Lost in Translation.

My understanding of Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation has changed each time I’ve watched it. I always feel like some part of my brain has been reset, and there’s something pretty to be found in young Scarlett Johansson’s solitary aimlessness; of which I’m sure many of us can relate to. It was around this time last year on a grim and shitty evening in Murano (as most evenings there are) that my flatmate asked if I wanted to watch the film with her. One slowly sipped hot chocolate later, I walked out of her room as a different person (the opening scene will have this effect). Since then, I’ve watched it again this June at the Prince Charles cinema in London, as a double billing with Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood For Love. Once more, it was so captivating that I went home and wrote in my journal: 

“Lost in Translation I think is about losing the mundane parts of your life in the process of translating them into another person’s life, or they become better and different and likeable that way – it makes me feel like I want that – to have an experience that could translate parts of myself into something new, not lost.”

Now, in October, it’s the soundtrack I play on repeat. The Jesus and the Mary Chain’s Just Like Honey, My Bloody Valentine’s Sometimes and Kevin Shields’ City Girl, all have that shoegaze-esque white noise in common, reflective perhaps of the Tokyo cityscape. Each are the kind of songs that have the rare ability to romanticise moments that could go one of either way: utterly depressing or completely elating, like looking out of the window of a fogged up car as it rains, or walking through an unfamiliar city by yourself because your boyfriend left you in the hotel alone.

Air’s Alone in Kyoto sounds like raindrops and introspection, and their inclusion in the film’s soundtrack parallels their iconic contribution Playground Lover in another of Coppola’s fine films, The Virgin Suicides. Too Young by Coppola’s lover’s band at the time, Phoenix, marks the euphoria of the kind of night that remains glittery and un-recreatable in time; a song so encompassing of its moment that it even brings Bill Murray to tell his wife on the phone that he wishes he’d asked for its name. Another side effect may be finding yourself longing for a chemistry-filled friendship with an older soul – despite Coppola’s claims that there was no tension between the two.
I find the soundtrack especially intriguing in wondering what it might mean to Kevin Shields, lead guitarist and vocalist of My Bloody Valentine, after having mentioned in an interview from 1997 that if he didn’t release music in the next year, he was dead. He then followed on to leave his band after the album Loveless, perhaps scared that nothing could top its success. Lost in Translation then, released six years after the interview, could be seen as a less daunting outlet for him to release the tracks that might have made up a subsequent album; tracks like City Girl, Goodbye and Ikebana. In this way the film isn’t just a translation of pervasive solitude into a solidarity-fueled friendship, but also the translation of one artistic vision into another. While we may have lost an album, we gained a soundtrack.


Share this story

Follow us online

Notify of

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Really refreshing commentary on one of my favourite films – 10/10!