Volume III (Summer 2008)
ISSN 1934-4324

Linda Kelly


Awakening of the Consciousness as evidenced within the events of Lost in Translation and its relationship to Heroine’s Journey

The Heroine’s Journey is one of self analysis and self understanding. Often in life, the feminine is swept into a raging torrent of expectations and beliefs that society has adopted in an erroneous mind-set of group think. This generalized understanding of success and personal fulfillment is based solely on society’s concept and projected images of professional success. Bill Murray plays a successful middle-aged movie star named Bob Harris along with co-star Scarlett Johansson as Charlotte, a young college graduate trying to find her purpose in life, in the 2003 feature length movie, Lost in Translation, written and directed by Sofia Coppola. In this film, Bob begins to wrestle with the demons of illusionary success while co-star Charlotte grapples to determine her meaning in life. Both awaken their inner feminine and begin to hear their inner voice and inner being. The title, Lost in Translation, has less to do with the language barriers experienced while visiting Tokyo, Japan and more to do with the stifling of the inner voice while ignoring the intuitive self that both have suffered over the years. Both individuals have become so disconnected by living the life that is expected of them that their inner voice is lost. The body is lost in translation with the mind.

In this story, both characters are experiencing a fundamental shift in their outlook on life. Both are considered successful within society’s terms. Bob, as a great film and commercial star is now in his mid-life ages, while Charlotte is a Yale graduate of philosophy and newly married to an up and coming photographer to the stars. During this trip, they both begin to experience a descent to the goddess and feel lives are somehow out of sorts. Bob drowns his woes of illusionary success in a bottle of Whiskey while Charlotte resorts to the bed and self-appointed alienation within her room. This is symbolic of the descent to the goddess as described in Maureen Murdock’s book, The Heroine’s Journey. Murdock identified that, “the descent is characterized as a journey to the underworld, the dark night of the soul, the belly of the whale, the meeting of the dark goddess, or simply as depression” (88). Both of these characters begin this descent independently as they begin to connect with the inner feminine that lets them know something is wrong in their lives, somehow they have become spectators to their own lives. They begin to feel that this is not where they are supposed to be in life and that they are denying their own inner selves. Because of the separation they have experienced from their feminine over the years, they are not sure what their intuition is telling them, they have “no one to nurture and no knowledge or recollection of how to nurture themselves” (Murdock, 25). They feel isolated and lonely.

As true to the heroine’s journey, this descent is followed by a yearning to re-connect with the feminine and re-establish the bond with their creative natures. Bob and Charlotte come together to help each other through this process. As an understated, thought provoking movie, these two unlikely friends, develop a bond that serves the purpose of delving into the psyche and exploring the realm of the self. Bob makes a comment in the movie, “they are paying me two million dollars to make a commercial and I’d rather be doing play somewhere”. In an effort for Bob to be doing what society and family thinks he should be doing, he misses out on what he wants to be doing, which is embracing the creative feminine within himself through his acting. Meanwhile Charlotte is functioning as an extension of her husband surrounded by individuals who are famous yet superficial. She yearns to reconnect with the feminine and re-establish the creative sense of self but fears society’s rejection. Murdock’s book eloquently sums Charlotte’s situation as evidenced in the myth of Psyche and Eros,

A woman usually lives some time during her life under domination of the man within her or the god within her, the animus. Her own inner Eros keeps her, quiet without her conscious awareness, in paradise. She may not question; she may not have a real relationship with him; she is completely subject to his hidden domination. It is one of the great dramas in the interior life of a woman when she challenges the animus’s supremacy and says, “I will look at you” (58).

With the help of Bob, Charlotte challenges her current life and openly looks at her Eros, exposing the meaningless expectations that she has been enduring in an effort to begin the quest for her inner peace, her inner balance and her self acceptance. Bob is the persona of Charlotte’s man of heart; he allows her the sovereignty to exercise her own will. He supports her decisions with a gentleness and compassion that she has been lacking in both her inner and outer worlds and is symbolic of true, undeniable love. This love and acceptance affords her the strength and bravery she needs to address her demons and balance her inner psyche.

Bob also suffers as slave to the inner Eros as he questions his purpose in life. Murdock’s words ring forth from the pages of the book while watching this movie as Bob epitomizes the words “what is all of this for? Why do I feel so empty? I’ve achieved every goal that I’ve set for myself, and there’s still something missing. I feel somehow that I’ve sold out , that I’ve betrayed myself, that I’ve let go of some part of myself that I can’t even name” (72). This is blatantly evident as Bob goes through the motions and actions that are expected of him from his profession. In keeping up this disjointed persona he forgets his son’s birthday. His relationship with is wife is one of superficial duty and all interaction is maintained via correspondence with faxes and courier services. Bob remain separate and isolated from personal and emotional contact even though he is surrounded by people. He has little idea of how he even arrived at such a severe state of disconnect. Here, Charlotte offers him the opportunity to enjoy life again, to look beyond what is expected of him and to simply be in the moment. Being “is a discipline that is accorded no applause from the outside world, it questions production for production’s sake. Politically and economically it has little value, but its simple message has wisdom” (Murdock, 128). This chance to just be, offered them both the opportunity to start feeling again.

Symbolic of the awakening of the inner self within this movie, is the inability of either party to sleep. Daily they go about their duties as expected of them, while every night they remain unable to sleep; they are unable to return to the unconscious state that has held them for so long. It is during their night time ventures that they begin to live and to re-connect with their creative inner feminine; they remember how to have fun, be creative and connect with another person. It is during this time that there is a healing of the spirit.

This movie ends with a poignant yet subtle physical act between the two main characters - a hug. Murdock discusses this relevance in her book as a circle, “magic occurs in circles. A circle is a hug of giving and receiving, it teaches about unconditional love” (181). With this ending we see the completion of the Heroine’s Journey for both of these individuals. Both have learned a great deal about themselves during this story, both have awakened their inner consciousness and wrestled with the inner demons and inner critics who are always demanding more. They have realized their inner feminine and helped each other to experience and be who they really are; they experience a connection to another person and to the world that had long been buried within their sub-consciousness.

This story leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. There is no clear identification as to what life will hold in store for these two individuals once they leave this foreign land, or how this awakening from within will change their lives going forward. We only know that their inner spirit has been awakened. Bob says something to Charlotte that is unidentifiable to the viewer as he hugs her. This leaves each viewer open their own interpretation as to what inference could be made. Could it be an insinuation of a possible love interest between the characters? Or perhaps it was merely a word of fatherly advice or guidance from her man of heart. Quite possibly this was a comment related to the human connection and acceptance of self that both individuals had been missing for so long. Regardless, their heroine’s journey is beginning, as a circle with no beginning and no end. They will never be able to return to life as before. They are now alive and aware. Their inner intuition and being is no longer lost in translation – it rings loud and true to the self.

Works Cited

Lost in Translation. Dir. Sofia Coppola. Perf. Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson. Focus Features, 2003.

Murdock, Maureen. The Heroine’s Journey. Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1990.