Thursday, 16 August 2007

Inaudible whispers

I finally got round to watching the movie Lost in Translation this week. I'm not going to review it here because you can no doubt find reviews elsewhere (here for example!). And I'm no film critic. Suffice to say it is a film about two people, Bob (played by Bill Murray) and Charlotte (played by Scarlett Johnanson), who meet in Tokyo. Bob is an actor who is in Japan to film a commercial for a whisky, whilst Charlotte is accompanying her photographer husband on a business trip. The film follows how these two lonely people connect with each other.

The reason I'm mentioning it here is because in a scene towards the very end of the movie Bob whispers something into the ear of Charlotte before they part. (I don't think I'm ruining the film for you by telling you this... but you might want to watch the film first before reading further; at the very least it will give you a context!). Thanks to the wonders of YouTube (and my new-found ability to post YouTube videos...) you can view the scene below:

We don't get to hear what Bob actually says, apart from he ends by saying "...OK?", to which Charlotte respondes "OK". Of course, you're not supposed to be able to hear what he whispers (the DVD subtitles say "inaudible", I tried it), but I was interested to know whether a line was scripted for the scene, or whether Bill Murray improvised a line, or whether he just mumbled a few meaningless words. And it seems I'm not alone. For example, one of the reviews I read (at was followed by many comments relating to what Bob actually says (the other main concern seems to be where can you get hold of the cherry blossoms like those that Charlotte hangs in her hotel room). What's interesting, is that there are a range of opinions regarding what Bob says.

Suggestions include:

"You have changed me irreversibly... [inaudible] ...Stay here and I will be back for you in a week, OK?"

"I was ready... [inaudible] ...on the way back, you should tell him the truth, OK?"

"I'll always remember the past few days with you... don't part mad, tell him the truth, OK?"

"You want to have a better performance? Go up there and tell him you love him right now."

"I love you, and everything you did. Go back there and tell him to try, OK?"

"Promise me... [inaudible] ... on the flight back, tell him the truth, OK?"

So I'm not any closer to an answer! I have just listened again to the scene and to me it sounds as though he begins with "Promise me..." and ends with "...and you tell him that you love him, OK?".

Some of those speculating on Bob's words even put forward some evidence in order to support their claims. For example, one points us to this website, that has scripts for hundreds of films including Lost in Translation. But when I looked just now, Lost in Translation wasn't there (it goes from Lost Horizons to Lost Souls)! Another points to a different website, where you can play the clip either with 'normal sound' or with 'enhanced sound', claiming that when you listen with the enhanced sound Bob clearly says "I love you, and everything you did. Go back there and tell him to try, OK?". Finally, one person points us back to YouTube, saying that if you search for "Lost in Translation whisper", you will find the answer. Well, folks, I did that. And, because I can, I have posted it here. Are you ready for the answer?

No way! I listened to it that time, and was convinced he ended by saying something like "... and you tell him the truth, OK?". It definitely was not "...but I won't let it come between us, OK?".
So I think we are left with not knowing. And not knowing is probably better than knowing. Because knowing is bound to be a disappointment. At least this way, whatever Bob whispers into Charlotte's ear can be what we want it to be, and from what we've seen (and heard) it seems that's exactly what people are doing. The idea is that you aren't told what is whispered. It's up to you to decide for yourself. I'll leave you with the words of one of the comments on which ring very true:
"The script isn't punishing you by not letting you hear the whisper, it's a reward. That whisper can be whatever you think it is. Whether you're a romantic, a cynic, or somewhere in between, the unintelligible whisper provides a perfect ending. I know exactly what he said, but I'm not going to tell you. You have to figure it out for yourself (hint: turning up the volume will not help)."
So we'll leave it at that. It is what you want it to be. I'm happy with that.

(But if you do have any inside information regarding what Bob actually does say...)


  1. I was thinking of watching this film until my parents watched it and said it wasn't very good. What did you think of it? Is it worth a watch? Is it as good as other films you recommend (e.g. Butterfly Effect)?

  2. Like you, I was put off from watching Lost in Translation as my parents had seen it and found it boring. I can see why some people would find it boring... it is subtle and slow moving. But that is also its strength in my opinion.

    Watch it for yourself and come to your own opinion. What might bore your parents may not bore you...

  3. Hmmmm.... I get a hint of sarcasm in that first sentence. I hope you realise that it is the lowest form of wit.

    I'm not a child, I don't base all my opinions of films on what my parents thought of it, I just don't want to waste time on a crappy film.

  4. No sarcasm. I was honestly put off watching the film because my parents (amongst one or two others) had seen it and said it was boring. I'm 37, and I still find myself being influenced by what my parents think.

    You'll never know if it is a crappy film unless you watch it. Read a few reviews if you like, but then watch it anyway.

  5. I loved the film - it captured the lonliness of two people at different stages in their life who found a connection through a mutual condition perfectly. I am a parent and did not find it boring!