In Platinga’s essay “Spectator Emotion and Ideological Film Criticism”, he refutes the idea that an emotional response to film is something to be ignored so that you may use only reason to understand the film. Platinga puts forth the cognitive perspective on emotion. He claims that the emotional experience relies on the previous experience of that spectator. He presents a case for the agency of both the spectator and film in the creation of emotional responses.
Romantic comedies and horror films are well known examples of the manipulation of the spectator’s emotions. They use very specific music and images to produce the correct feelings for the plot. This engages the viewer and results in their commitment to the characters. People often feel that the homogeneity of the manipulations these films employ is a major flaw in our culture. We mass produce films with the same songs, plots, and characters. However, Lost in Translation (2003) is not one of these standard romantic comedies.
Lost in Translation (2003) employs several techniques to produce sentiment in the spectator. The beginning of the movie follows the two main characters as they deal with their environment. By setting the movie in Japan, where the two main characters stick out like sore thumbs, the viewer is already conditioned to be considering the topic of loneliness and isolation. These are emotions that most everyone has felt at some point, and so by making our characters foreigners the film produces a very visible representation of loneliness even in a sea of people. This is used to condition the spectator, so that later when it becomes clear that the real problem is that in their everyday lives these two characters feel loneliness and isolation , even with the ones they love.
I found it very interesting that while Lost in Translation (2003) purposefully created a romantic relationship, they did not equate this with sex. In so many movies focused on romance, they equate love with sex. However in Lost in Translation (2003), they focus on companionship and understanding. This is further emphasized by the overall sense of loneliness and isolation that pervades the film. This allows the spectator to root for their love without having to go against their morals. The married status of these characters makes a sexual love problematic, but by not sexualizing their relationship, the spectator can appreciate and be fully invested in it. Bob’s affair with the red-haired singer furthers this point, their relationship clearly superficial though sexual.
Unlike most romance movies, Lost in Translation (2003) does not use Aristophanes’ view on love from Plato’s The Symposium to outline the story. There are no two perfect halves finding each other in this love story. The two main characters are in committed relationships. In a more typical movie, their unhappiness in their marriages would be replaced the happiness inherent in finding their true match, the true second half of their soul. However, that is not what Charlotte and Bob find in each other. They find companionship and friendship. They find an escape from their isolation. They find love in each other, but we do not get the impression that they are each other’s second halves. They do not leave their spouses for each other. They do not make plans to see each other. They found understanding and peace within their relationship in a time when they felt isolation. They are a necessary part of each other’s story, but their relationship was necessarily brief. The truthfulness found in their love suggests that the myth of a second half may be just a myth.