Are ‘Lost In Translation’ and ‘Her’ two sides of the same story?


February 18, 2014 by Craig Sutherland

After seeing Spike Jonze’s incredible film Her this week I couldn’t help but think that I might have seen the other side of this story before…

Lost In Translation (2003) is the tale of loneliness and melancholia set to the backdrop of Tokyo starring Scarlett Johansson, directed by the incredible Sofia Coppola.

Her (2013) is also a tale of loneliness and melancholia set in a 2025 in a city that smack of a LA/Tokyo hybrid also starring Scarlett Johansson(‘s Voice) directed by the wonderful Spike Jones.

Lets rewind a touch… Spike Jonze & Sofia Coppola were married on 26th June 1999, they divorced on December 5, 2003, the couple filed for divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences.”

In 1999 Sofia released her feature debut The Virgin Suicides to rave reviews while Spike put out the quirky Being John Malkovich. Sofia has said that she spent some time in Tokyo while working on The Virgin Suicides so guess it’s not a stretch to assume Spike was there with her for periods.

”Interviewer: There are so many elements in Lost in Translation that seem, well frankly, autobiographical…true?
Sofia: It came from all my trips to Japan and to that actual hotel- the different experiences. I went there for Virgin Suicides and stuff – so it definitely came from just kind of my observations of Tokyo…and yeah, there’s definitely parts I relate to in both the Bill Murray character and Scarlett Johansson’s character.” (Via

If we read exactly what the protagonists are saying in both films do we get a feel of their relationship?

Charlotte (Johansson, Lost In Translation) has a work-a-holic photographer other-half who she believes has more interest in his subjects that he does her. In real life Jonze worked as a photographer Freestylin’ Magazine in the mid-to late 1980s.

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix, Her) is a 30-something professional who is lonely and insecure after the demise of his marriage and impending divorce from his childhood sweetheart other-half. Once Twombly feels like he can move on and agree to the divorce that has been hanging over his head he apologizes to his estranged wife, is this Jonze apologizing to Coppola for focusing on his work rather than her.

The parallels are there even if they are unintended, Johansson as the love interest in both films, John (Charlotte’s partner in Lost In Translation) is a photographer, so was Jonze for a while, the cityscapes, in Her Twombly & his estranged wife ‘Grew up’ together and inspired each other, like, I imagine Jonze & Coppola might have after they met in 1992.

Even if the similarities are unintended these films will be forever entwined because of their close, personal connection to the director/writers.

Do you think the connection is tenuous? Let me know below.

Related Post: Scarlett Johansson: Top 5 Performances –(Via On The QT)

One thought on “Are ‘Lost In Translation’ and ‘Her’ two sides of the same story?

  1. heligena says:

    Totally totally agree-it was the first thing I thought after coming out of the cinema!
    Also for these reasons…

    1) Both films are written AND directed by Jonze and Coppola, respectively; Her in fact being the only film in his career that Jonze has cared deeply enough about to have written an original script for.

    2) Both characters are shown at a stage in their life where they are disillusioned with love and humanity as a whole, and although they’re both artists of a kind (Bill Murray a fading actor, Joachim Phoenix a personal letter-writer) their art form no longer seems to bring them any kind of joy. Which is fascinating if you take into account the fact that art itself plays an major part in the overall arch of the stories….for example Coppola opens LIT with a shot based specifically around a John Kacere painting of a girl lounging around in her underwear and contains hundreds of tiny details such as Bob’s ringtone playing Chopin (his “Fantaisie Impromptu” in C sharp minor, Opus 66 to be specific.) Compare this to ‘Her’, a film where Samantha, the operating system that Theodore falls in love with writes and plays piano compositions to express her burgeoning emotions… and where Theodore becomes an officially published author through Samantha’s appreciation of his old archived work-letters. What this tells us is that these are both stories based around characters losing themselves in the art-forms around them even when their own talents fail to satisfy them…and come on…what a beautiful thing that is to find in one film let alone two, right?

    3) From a technical standpoint, both movies are filmed with the same languid, directionless style, infusing each frame with malaise and intimate-if-sleepy close ups of the human face. Every thought and feeling is shown not through action but in the actor’s micro-expressions, the flecks in their eyes and the ability not to flinch from the uglier side of their own flesh. It’s an interesting approach given the fact that the directors don’t even share a common gender (and the fact that Jonze is more prone to hyper-kinetic weirdness) but one that flows beautifully in both movies. And it’s kinda cool to note that Coppola was originally asked to film her story in Hi-def but chose to use old school film (as Jonze did) to keep the romantic tone intact.

    4) What’s just as intriguing as the performances are the lengths that both Johansson and her colleagues went to in order to give each movie a realistic and intimate edge. It’s well known now that Johansson prepared for her role in LIT by living in nearby Hokkaido with her boyfriend of the time Faiz Ahmad, absorbing as much of the local culture as she could to utilise in her role as Charlotte. In Her though, the director went even further and reportedly locked co-stars Amy Adams and Joachim Phoenix in a room for hours at a time to cultivate a genuine real-life friendship. Now that’s commitment for you! And goes to show if nothing else, how much the authenticity of the films meant to the individuals involved in them….

    In conclusion- There’s definitely going to be a DVD boxset of these two films for sale on Amazon sooner than people might think…for sure.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


  • 134,354 Lookers


February 2014
« Jan   Mar »
%d bloggers like this: