Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Would You Like Subtitles or Dubbing With That?": For the Love of Foreign Films

Here in North America we often don't have the chance (or motivation) to branch out and explore films from the other ends of the globe, which are sometimes even better than all those Hollywood films flooding theatres nowadays.
Although I personally see a lot of British movies, I never seem to have a companion that wants to watch films in a foreign language with me.
And why is this?
Most of the time, it's because people don't really like to have to read subtitles while they watch a movie. They find it "distracting" from the action of the film. Personally I don't find this too detracting from a cinematic experience, but I've heard a number of acquaintances say lately that they prefer to have English dubbed over rather than using subtitles.

To me, this is a terrible choice. Really? You would rather have another voice go over than to have to (*gasp*) read a little sentence or two at the bottom?
Maybe I'm just a fast reader so it doesn't bother me, or maybe I'm just used to it, but can you seriously say that listening to someone else's voice that doesn't necessarily match the person speaking doesn't distract you from the film even more?

Alright, so the people that do dubbing in different language for films are typically trained voice actors, but having that go over the original acting job just takes away from the performance of the actor.
Do you think Amelie [French] would have been so whimsical and delightful without being able to absorb Audrey Tautou's complete performance? Or would it have sufficed without the intense French atmosphere?

The only stick in my pudding of "Pro-Subtitle/Anti-Dubbing" would be those rare roles that actually use voice actors or others' voices over another. An example of this is in the film Lat Den Ratte Komma In/Let the Right One In [Swedish], which used a voice double for the character of Eli to make her sound older, despite the actress Lina Leandersson's young appearance.
The fact remains, however, that the voice and words matched the movements of the actress, making it seem believable that the voice was coming from her. Were it in another language, her mouth would not have matched the words, and there is nothing more irritating to watch than that. At least, this is what my sister thinks, as sometimes her recordings glitch and she is left watching something with the sound lagging behind the action by a few seconds. To be honest, I find it pretty irritating to watch as well, and would much rather have to read a few lines at the bottom of a screen every couple of seconds, than wonder which words belong where.

Maybe it's just a pet peeve of mine to have dubbing rather than subtitles, but there you have it: When it comes down to foreign language films, I would much rather have to read than listen to another's voice in English.

But please, don't let either of these options deter you from seeing a film in a foreign language, because there are some real gems out there, and it's sad that not as many people are willing to see them, simply because of the language barrier.
(Though sometimes even when a film is in English but with strongly accented actors, people are turned off by it as well... Silly Yanks, not being able to understand the Irish and Scottish! I have no problem with that at all, no Sir, I don't.)

And now, I leave it up to you: What do you think of foreign language films?
Does subtitling bother you? How about dubbing?

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJune 16, 2011

    Speaking as a french immersion elementary student, who had to endure many, many english films with french dubbing, I also find the whole situation rather distracting! I would take subtitles any day of the week!

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