The cinema of Sofia Coppola is certainly not for everyone, with many people claiming that her work symbolises two of the worst elements of Hollywood: nepotism and lack of depth. While the validity of those criticisms have been questioned, it is fair to say that Coppola has produced a few notable projects over the course of her career as a filmmaker which has received significant critical acclaim.
One of those films is Lost in Translation, Coppola’s 2003 magnum opus starring Bill Murray as a fading star who travels to Japan for shooting a whiskey advertisement but falls in love with a newly married young woman (Scarlett Johansson). This film was the apotheosis of Coppola’s directorial career in which she conducted a memorable exploration of urban isolation and existentialism.
A major reason why Lost in Translation worked so well was because it was a personal experience for Coppola. “I spent a lot of time in Tokyo in my twenties and I really wanted to make a film around my experience of just being there,” Coppola revealed. “That was the starting point. I got married not long before and kind of felt isolated. I was in this stage where I wasn’t sure if I’d made the right choices or what I was doing in the post-college beginning of my adult life.”
As the daughter of American pioneer Francis Ford Coppola, she grew up in the world of cinema and had an impressive knowledge of films and film history from a very early age. Her eclectic taste in films was evident when she was asked to name some of the iconic scenes that have influenced her own directorial journey over the years.
Coppola did not hesitate to include a particular moment from her father’s film Rumble Fish in that list which is her favourite Francis Ford Coppola project. She said: “I love that it’s an art film about teenagers. I just love the way that it’s shot — I love those old lenses, those Zeiss lenses; they have a softer feel. [Coppola and her DP, Harris Savvides, used the lenses from Rumble Fish to shoot Somewhere.] Roman [Coppola, her brother] and I are just sentimental about film.”
Her list also mentioned George Stevens’ classic A Place in the Sun as well as recent gems like Fish Tank which is one of the definitive coming-of-age films of the 20th century. However, there was one particular influence that she named as her favourite film scene of all time and cited it as an inspiration for Lost in Translation.
It is a specific scene from David Lean’s 1945 masterpiece A Brief Encounter featuring Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson. Coppola claimed that the return to the local train station’s refreshment room at the end of the film is one of the greatest moments in cinematic history, showcasing how powerful non-verbal communication can be.
While paying her tribute to the film, Coppola commented: “It was a big inspiration for me when I was writing Lost In Translation. Just the intense emotion between these two characters. Very little is said, and you feel so much in just a gesture or a pause. It’s so emotional but everything’s under the surface. Maybe that’s very English? But I love that.”
View the scene, below.