Thursday, June 9, 2011

Recommended Viewing: "Somewhere" Written & Directed by Sofia Coppola

Lost in Translation is one of my favorite films. I think it perfectly captures not only the bewilderment and beauty of visiting a foreign country, but also the ennui that comes from mid-life crises and post-college crises, when you either regret how you've spent your life so far, or you can't figure out who you're supposed to be.

This line never ceases to make me laugh:

Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson): "I tried being a writer but I hate what I write. I tried taking pictures, but they were so mediocre. I guess every girl goes through a photography phase. You know, horses... taking pictures of your feet."

Despite my love for the film, I was reluctant to watch Ms. Coppola's most recent project, Somewhere, because I feared it would be more of the same, yet less of what was so great about Lost in Translation.

There are a few obvious similarities. A movie star (this time played by Stephen Dorff instead of Bill Murray) lives in a hotel, drifting through his pampered, rather absurd life without purpose. And yes, once again he's jolted out of his stupor by a "younger woman" (his 11-year-old daughter Cleo, play by Elle Fanning).

The performances are terrific, and I especially appreciated the way the film was bookended. We begin with a static partial shot of a race track, and watch as Dorff, in his expensive and noisy Ferrari, speeds around it (briefly out of sight) four times. The symbolism is clear: he's going nowhere; he's going in circles.

The final shot (spoiler alert) is Dorff in the same car, alone again, but driving out of the city, out onto the open road, going somewhere at last. And when he exits the car this time, there's a hint of a smile on his face.

When I write novels or short stories, I aspire to make my endings relate directly to my beginnings -- either by referring back to the opening imagery, or using similar allusions so the story feels like it's come full circle.

Do you believe endings should directly reference beginnings, or do you think it should be up to readers to interpret any potential parallels for themselves?


  1. I actually read that recommendation somewhere and rewrote my ending to reflect the beginning more. :P

  2. Were you happy with the results? :)

  3. I think writing has a lot of parallels to good music composition--there are highs and lows, the minor chords highlight the major ones, the harmony and the melody. (Ok my metaphor is getting carried away here). But YES, I think the ending should reflect the beginning, tying everything up. I just re-watched Disney's Tangled and loved how they tied everything up so beautifully. Another great example is Les Miserables, all the themes tie up, flow together-beautiful. :)

  4. I haven't seen Tangled, but I've heard great things, and your comment gave me another reason to add it to my Netflix queue. Thanks, Kara!