Coppola’s Lost in Translation: The Whisper

Coppola's Lost in Translation: The Whisper

Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Tanslation

When I love a movie, I can watch it again and again and discover something new each time. It’s like visiting my favorite cities (London, New York, Paris) and finding a new neighborhood off the beaten path that has the cutest boutiques and the tastiest restaurants and cafes. I don’t know how many times I have seen Sofia Coppola’s masterpiece Lost in Translation, but I always study the last scene: The Whisper.

The film is about an aging movie star, Bob Harris, played by the formidable Bill Murray, who is reluctantly visiting Tokyo to do a mediocre whiskey commercial and get paid a couple of million for his endorsement of the product. To say that Murray is not happy in Tokyo is an understatement. During his stay, he meets a young and confused woman, Charlotte,  played by Scarlett Johansson, who is recently married and is struggling with her loneliness in Tokyo while her busy husband is off on a photography assignment. Bob and Charlotte first meet unofficially in the hotel elevator, but officially strike up a conversation at the conversation at the hotel bar.

The chemistry between the two is immediately palpable as the unlikely pair develop a bond based on their mutual isolation and sense of inertia in the sea of bustling Tokyo. I would consider Tokyo the third character in the film; its sights and sounds are always either in the background or foreground of every scene. Coppola shows us many scenes where the main characters are gazing through a window at the enormity of the city. It creates a sense of being separated from the entire city. Because of the characterization of Tokyo as the backdrop, you can say that Charlotte and Bob both are Lost In Tokyo, but find in each other friendship, solace and, I believe, love.

This love subtly grows in certain scenes in the movie – one being their first date where they karaoke and appear to serenade to each other. Charlotte flirtatiously sings The Pretenders’ Brass in Pocket and Bob sings a touching rendition of  Roxy Music’s More than This. In this scene, it’s almost as if no one else exists in the moment they both sing these songs because they can’t take their eyes off each other. Oh amor!


But, that last scene…..the whisper! What does he tell her? Gosh, I would give anything to ask Coppola what she told Bob to whisper in Charlotte’s ear!


I am not a screenwriter; That’s Mr. ShuGar’s profession and he is very talented at it. I have had many discussions with him about what we think Bob tells Charlotte as he sees her walking through the Tokyo crowds on his way to the airport. He embraces her, whispers in her ear and then gives her the most beautiful kiss – oozing with tenderness and love. Cue the closing song by The Jesus and Mary Chain Just Like Honey.

Allow me a quick tangent. I love Coppola’s soundtracks. They are so rad because they have retro tunes, mixed with really cool indie rock. Lost in Translation is no exception. I especially love the soundtrack for her film Marie Antoinette. This is how I discovered Radio Dept – another music obsession of mine. Her musical taste and mine are very similar so I look forward to her next project partly because of this.

But back to the movie – so what does he tell her?

I think he says they will meet again, possibly in Tokyo, but their story is not over. I like to believe that he confesses his feelings for her and she is overcome with emotion and that’s why you see her eyes filled with tears. My interpretation is that her “ok” in the scene is agreeing with his reassurance that she will find her way in her life, but that their relationship will continue. It’s sad, but it’s life. Call me an optimist, but I like to think that this is just the beginning of their love story. They are no longer lost, but they have found each other.

What do you think he told her? I’m sure there are many websites dedicated to this, like this one. Well, that’s my take on it and I am sticking to it. What can I say? I am a sucker for love.