Wednesday, October 17, 2007

#23 Female Performance: Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson
Lost in Translation (2003)

Sofia Coppola's sophmore effort conveys the disillusionment and sense of alienation felt by its two main characters by intuitively creating a specific tone of melancholy through striking visuals, its shoegaze infused soundtrack and understated sleep-walking performances from Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray. Influenced by European directors such as Godard and Antonioni, Coppola abandons traditional narrative conventions by creating a lucid dream-like atmosphere within her minimalistic story-line that is more driven by aesthetics rather than characters or plot. Instead, the film strives to portray a specific mood through self-reflexive means with the aid of contrasting image and sound (specifically music). Story-wise, Lost in Translation is not particulary ambitious and at times frivolous which in turn, reflects the attitudes and state of mind of Charlotte (Johansson) and Bob (Murray) who are both unsatisfied with their current positions in life and desperately seeking for some kind of enlightement vicariously through each other.

Johansson's quiet performance is understated in every sense of the word which doesn't rely on any kind of histrionics. She does an excellent job of internalizing her character's ennui and mediocrity. Charlotte is instantly relatable with the same emotional hang-ups of any pos-graduate plagued with uncertainty of the future. Her longing to find that special connection with someone also feels awfully familiar especially when miscommunication or lackthereof has become a popular norm in today's technologically motivated society. Charlotte's breakdown in the hotel room strikes a chord in its profundity as it reveals the overwhelming desire for finding a meaningful purpose in her life. Johansson's proclivty to internalize her character's existential turmoil is done with such subtley and natural conviction making her search for enlightenemnt all the more resonant.

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