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Orientalism is basically a term used to refer how the west pervasively defines the aspects of Eastern cultures. This pervasiveness could be brought about by various types of media either in pictures, writings or even movies. Basically orientalism has more to do with the negative depiction that the west casts towards the eastern cultures. It has to do with the prejudice that brings about negative perception hence prejudiced materials are produced. This paper looks at this issue by narrowing down to Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation movie and on Edward Said's perspective of Orientals.
Orientalism is about Western Europe's relation to the East Asia. Edward Said concentrated on the relationship between the United States and the Arab world. Lost in Translation is a good movie through which the aspect of orientalism can be studied.
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Lost in Translation is ranked as a comedy. The film is full of common indicators that characterize Japan and its capital. The blazing streets at night, hair fashion sporting. The film arouses amusement especially from is Western audience but to the contrary its Japanese audience are not happy with the way the humor is developed. The script of the comedy is simple. It's a comedy that is basically romantic where two protagonists get into a relationship but not on a sexual basis. The relationship is basically one of helping each other and spending time together-companionship. The two have happened to meet in a foreign city and started spending time together. The fact that they are aliens provides for an ideal situation of what could be called 'holiday" romance. This is brought out by the many plots unveiled through the film.
The producer however does not incorporate holiday romance but instead he goes centrally in putting his characters to an awkwardly structured relationship that is characterized by their loneliness and their anonymity to the foreign country. The fact that all of them are aliens becomes the starting point for the development of their relationship. The two main characters have various things to share. This includes the fact that all of them are foreigners in Japan. They also share similar economic status. Their character and way of judging things are also similar. Japan in this context is the orient the movie is set.
Japanese critics view the film as discriminatory due to its consistent depiction of local characters in negative scenarios. Although there was a lot of a resistance from non profit organizations such as Asian Media Watch, the film still won Best Original Screenplay award.
In Lost Translation, Coppola moves between comedy unveilings, the difference in culture and stereotype based on culture.
At one moment the balance moves to her favor (Coppola's). The film does not bring out clearly if it represents the Authenticity of the Japanese capital Tokyo in an objective manner. Instead every image comes in a new hence giving the status of first impression as the true picture. The perception of the west in particular is mainly embedded on the fantasies that the duo-which are the main characters bring about onto Japan and its residents (Iskandar & Rustom, 2010).
In the sections where Japan is depicted negatively-either in an erotic or in an unintelligible manner the audience is not able to conclusively determine whether this is Coppola's perspective of looking at the footages or its her characters' or it just the imagination that usually come about by the film stars.
In his writing on Orientalism Edward Said urges all the authors, script writers and video developers to always locate the orient relative to them. He went ahead and added that the location should not be demonstrated just in terms of space but based on subjection and on perception. That involves the wording, the voice, and the structure. "The kinds of images, themes and motifs" He argues that all of this work together to make the Orient or represent it.
In the film, Orientalism tradition that Said talks about is broken. This is brought out in the sense that Coppola never located the exact location relative to the city and the people that she filmed. The audience feels detached like they are foreigners at one time and the next the audience feels part of the film as they are locals. There is no one point in the film that we are able to securely get the confident position occupied by the Superiority gaze of the west upon the nonwestern. The film ends on a note of containing Japan as the Orient and even speaking on its behalf .This is by representing Japan as a space. It is on this space that an American may find himself lost though without going through change or getting an experience.
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The film is said to be racist. This is based on the argument that it stereotyped certain characters of who happen to be Japanese, however if the film was to be well analyzed one would find out that it somehow incorporated all types of humor and sarcasm and applied such scenes to all characters. This therefore is not discriminatory on race basis.
In the film we discover that Harris and to some extent Charlotte have the problem of overcoming the language barrier. They are made to be confused based on language misunderstandings and misappropriation of their difference in language. It is logical to say that once someone appreciates another's language they will try their best to learn the language. This makes linguistic misunderstandings makes them to fail in appreciating the accommodative nature of the Japanese characters. Apart from the common word 'konnichiwa' which he occasionally utters, Harris refuses to speak Japanese yet the other characters try speaking English though a broken one.
In conclusion the film tries to bring out the point that 'otherness' does not really apply to the various situations as to the culturally marginalized as Edward Said argues in orientalism but its just a term that can be applied to any other term everywhere in the world. Lost translation actually contains elements of orientalism and is in itself a product of orientalism.