Navigating the Global Essay: Lost in Translation & Seamus Heaney
Navigating the Global Essay: Lost in Translation & Seamus Heaney
The reactions of characters towards a growing global culture, whether a retreat or an embrace, are heavily influenced by personal choices. Within the arena of Navigating the Global, choices are almost certainly influenced by the circumstances in which they occur, whether this be a choice to keep the connection to the local, or move towards a more global setting. Three key texts that exemplify this phenomenon include the film ‘Lost in Translation’ by Sophia Coppola made in 2003, the Seamus Heaney’s poems ‘Digging’ (1998) and ‘Personal Helicon’, and finally the illustration ‘Globalisation’ (2012) by Michael Leunig.
All three delve deeply into the interplay between internal choice and external circumstance. While they do explore how circumstances can influence choices, ‘Lost in Translation’ has a secondary investigation of how choices can impact the circumstance. ‘Lost in Translation’ is a film that explores the decisions made by two characters when they are stranded in a foreign country. It also shows how their circumstances ultimately shape the decisions that they make. The characters already exist in a highly globalised world, and furthermore, in one of the most technologically advanced cities on the planet – Japan.
Although the film is set in this city, there is also an element of the local throughout the film. Japan’s juxtaposition of the new age and deep-rooted tradition becomes a focus throughout the film as the protagonists ultimately end up giving favor towards that global utopia they found with each other. The protagonists, Charlotte and Bob represent opposing sides of this; Charlotte the traditional, Bob the new age. A scene that best represents Charlotte’s displacement within this technological environment, is when she is situated within her hotel room, and is talking to a friend on the phone.
The dull lighting and grey cityscape that is seen from out the extensive window, highlights her displacement within the hotel. The mid close up angle of Charlotte huddled on a seat in the middle of the room, crying to her friend about how she misses them, further demonstrates her isolation within the bleak setting. This juxtaposes strongly with her behavior when she is out near a temple with nature around her. She seems, although alone, to be more at home and interested with the culture than when alone in the hotel, and in one scene, is in awe of a tender moment between bride and groom.
This is shown through the wide shot of her standing back from the couple, and a panning shot of them walking, with the bride in traditional dress. The fact that we feel Charlotte is more comfortable within a natural setting is even more relevant to the choice that she makes to spend more time with Bob in a more commercial and overbearing city, and within the hotel. The hotel is one of the most symbolic features of the film and as hotels are a worldwide symbol for globalization and the merging of culture with traditions, this becomes important when Bob chooses to stay longer because of the close friendship formed with Charlotte.
They are a physical manifestation of cross-cultural convergence in one single place. Therefore, the hotel in ‘Lost in Translation’ becomes a clear depiction of not only the protagonists circumstances influencing their choice, but of isolation, of the limits of the American ethos, and of the dangers of language barriers. This is demonstrated clearly in the sauna scene for Bob, when two other men have a conversation, possibly in German, which he is incapable of understanding.
The high angle mid close up shot of the two men sitting together, talking comfortably, while Bob is distanced from them with a pained expression, illustrates his confusion and ostracism from general banter and interaction with new people. Earlier in the film, Bob tries to communicate to the photographer in his whiskey advertisement. The director rants for a lengthy period, making grand physical gestures and dramatically giving instructions, but when he finished this performance, his translator says only a simple sentence of vague direction.
This is another vital indication of how the true meaning of words and conversation is completely lost in translation. This theme of the globalised world of Japan is relevant to the circumstance that the movie has been set up in because of Sophia Coppola’s 21st century up bringing. The movie itself can be seen as a comment on the growing global scale of the world, and the multicultural boundaries that are blurring and changing within the world. Not unlike Lost in Translation, Michael Leunig’s cartoon ‘Globalisation’ focuses on the move away from the natural and towards embracing an increasingly global and technological world.
The image portrays two human figures in the centre, they are framed on one side by a stark, black tree that seems to be smouldering as if having just been burnt, and on the other side by a collection of tall buildings with small windows, seen from a distance. The only text in the illustration says, ‘What is Globalisation? Globalisation is installing light globes in as many places as possible on the face of the earth’. The pun of ‘Globalisation’ is used to diminish or even parody the impact of actual globalisation.
The human figures face away from nature and appear to prefer the cityscape, with their faces upturned with slight smiles. This symbolism of moving away from the smouldering, suffering tree and towards the seemingly pristine city is used to convey that we, as humans, are forgetting our original position in nature. He suggests a conscious choice to move away from the natural and towards the global culture. The fact that the tree is so prominent within the picture, and that it is giving off some kind of toxic looking smoke, is an ominous symbol which forshadows the dangers of preferring the man-made to our natural state.
Similarly, this preference is reflected repeatedly in Lost In Translation, with characters moving towards the global and more technological world. But in contrast, Leunig conveys this in a more sinister and ignorant tone, whereas in Lost In Translation, the more modern setting is seen as a kind of safe haven for the two characters who are lost in their mutual isolation. This relates back to the issue of how the circumstances that you are in, e. g. the isolation that Charlotte and Bob feel, and the dying natural world in Leunig’s illustration, influence the choices that are made, this time being to move and accept a more global world.
In contrast to Lost In Translation, Seamus Heaney’s poems ‘Digging’ and ‘Personal Helicon’ focus on the importance of the local, and the foundational relationships held within choosing to keep that homely connection. Within these two poems, great importance is placed on the exploration and appreciation of nature and the natural environment. Throughout the poem ‘Digging’, the connection to his father, grandfather and other family members, and his choice to remain connected with his Irish heritage is seen through “ … a clean rasping sound – When the spade sinks down into the gravelly ground – my father, digging. I look down. The auditory imagery in ‘rasping sound’ when explaining the shovel noise is an immediate link to nature, and the significance of potatoes and agriculture in Irish heritage is highlighted.
The direct link to his father with ‘ My father, I look down’ conveys his relationship with his father is still there, but that it has changed from him looking up to his father, to him making the more adult choice of acknowledging his work, but moving away from him, or becoming an adult. This choice to distance himself from the expectations of his father comes within the last line “Between my finger and my thumb- The squat pen rests- Ill dig with it. The metaphor of turning his more modern job of a writer, and the tool in which he uses, his pen, and turning it into a spade which was his father and grandfathers tool, tells us that, although he is honoring family and keeping within the local by still maintaining connections, the circumstances for him have changed, and so he moves only slightly to a more modern world. The poem ‘Personal Helicon’ is slightly different, in that it is completely about moving away from the people around you, and the advancing world, and finding peace in solitude and nature.
This poem of the recollections of a man looking back on his childhood and his fascination with wells, is one that demonstrates how childhood and the associations that you had as a child, in this instance with nature, can influence what you do later in life, and how he longs for that childhood fascination again. Within the line ‘I savored the rich crash when a bucket – Plummeted down at the end of a rope. ’ It gives us insight into Heaneys connection with the simplicity of nature, and his childlike self’s fascination with earthy objects.
This is further shown in ‘ When you dragged out long roots from soft mulch – A white face hovered over the bottom. ’ The use of ‘you’ indicating that it is a relatable situation, and the tactile and visual imagery found in ‘ long roots’, ‘soft mulch’ and ‘ White face’ gives us further insight into his connection and love for nature. The mention of his reflection being seen in the water is a link to how he sees himself in nature, and is therefore connected to it. The last lines in the poem ‘ … To pry into roots, to finger slime… Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme- To see myself, to set the darkness echoing. Shows that as an adult, it is unacceptable to do the things he once loved as a child, and the only way to conjure the memory of that is to tell it through his poems.
The use of the high modality of ‘beneath all adult dignity’ alludes to the fact that he is now in a world that is un-accepting of nature, and the choice he has made to stay within that position means that he can never really find his solitude within nature that he had as a child, growing up in Ireland and the farming culture that valued nature, again. Within the texts ‘Lost in Translation’ by Sophia Coppola, ‘Digging’ and ‘Personal Helicon’ by Seamus Heaney and ‘Globalisation? by Michael Leunig, the issues of how circumstances can affect choices within the globalised world, and how the choices you make will and can affect the circumstances you are in is explored through a number of different ways. Whether the characters have chosen to retreat from the modern world, or embrace it, the choices made within the texts are coming from some sort of influence from their previous circumstances. It is clear that your upbringing and local situation will influence how you go about navigating through an increasingly global situation.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 19 October 2016
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