Lost in Translation – Manuel Marrero

A Sofia Coppola dream is not merely a shiny surface or exercise in style. It is a three-dimensional space in which we project our most lambent tickles that can be in any way adequately and accurately described as desires. They nag at us, but they generally leave us alone. You can go about your day with a lump in your throat, nebulous thoughts weighing on your mind, shaping your breath, just out of sight, off focus, slightly unsettling in your pores like dirt under fingernails, but good natured and optimistic. You can carry on with a normal composure. They leave as gracefully as they enter and move inside us. The characters in the dream are not inert, rather, they are pushing, moving, struggling restlessly through the inert gravity of circumstance, like silent film actors microdosing LSD, just enough to cause striations in the periphery of vision, like a bad printer. 

They are, for me, not devoid of sexual tension, at least not since she released The Beguiled, in which sexual tension is the engine and showpiece. But this dream is more aptly titled Lost in Translation. In it, I’m always on the precipice of blowing something important, some undefined need that needs to be kept at bay, lest the Ides of March, Waterloo, the Sword of Damocles, Rilke’s Avenging Angels, Nemesis, or any classical metaphor for a comeuppance be dealt, not by any person’s hand. Though it may seem that way, Sofia would say it’s God’s hand. Whatever it is, I can’t let it consume me. It’s vivid, but not imposing. Whenever I do let it consume me, I go “underwater,” and it’s intoxicating, like a drug, but like any well-titrated dose, a salve used for treatment and not to get “high,” it’s best to address it at an even keel. To modulate the presence of what can be more or less, but not altogether, ignored. If this seems abstract, it’s only because my dream, Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, is abstract by nature. Abstraction is the language of forbearance. 

It’s unclear whether I am Sofia Coppola in the dream, directing my dream lucidly, or off in the wings somewhere. A PA maybe, or a boom mic operator. I am not, however, the subject. That much is clear. Because I’m thoroughly engaged together with Sofia and am always aware of Sofia Coppola’s motivations. They don’t elude me. I am watching her watch them. And her authoritative, directorial poker face doesn’t fool me. Her subjects are objects of her unconditional affection. She wouldn’t dare interrogate them. They are not thrust into threatening situations, merely teased by existence. This is what I mean when I say abstract by nature. This is how they linger, through the power and nature of voyeurism. In the dream, I don’t want more, but I want to see more, and I start to develop feelings for these subjects. Maybe I could be a fly on the wall while one of them masturbates, but I’m not desperate. Sofia’s commitment is my commitment, to indulge her fascination with what can only be half-glimpsed. Your lips wrestle to form the words that would imbue them with some overwrought emotion to edify them, but, while their pining is palpable and irrepressible, they’re too real to you to give themselves completely over to you. Their most climactic, significant gestures must be lost in translation. 

These dreams keep the blood flowing, though. This is because in Lost in Translation, the subtext is deafening. You know exactly what the subjects are thinking because it’s what you, the voyeur, are thinking. It’s what Sofia’s thinking. It’s what the audience watching the film and the supplemental lore are thinking, though that comes later. They’re nature documentaries, with everything inherent in nature. Pay attention to nature’s synchronicities, for they are no accident. They may be unassuming, understated, drenched in style, saturated in color, but you can tell it’s real like dark matter can be observed as real, because of their impact on their surroundings. At the end of the dream, you can hammer out the ingot of abstraction as much as you like, but the prevailing feeling you get is one of getting as close to the edge of subtext without collapsing, and in that sweet space of excruciating detail, the tension doesn’t resolve, because it wasn’t there to begin with. You think, to the characters, or subjects, you think aloud: you’re great. You understand things. You’re someone I miss. You’re someone I want to keep hanging out with, and when the dream ends, when the credits roll, it’s bittersweet because you’ve been real enough to continue hanging out without me, but in my mind, no less, you are present, you are hanging out, and you’d rather be talking on screen, but you’re muted. The dream isn’t over though, and neither is the film. And the most poised, ideal version of yourself that Sofia Coppola captured is more real, not less, because it’s recorded. I appreciate Sofia Coppola and her vision.