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March 1995, Week 3


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 16 Mar 1995 15:42:00 CST
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
In article <[log in to unmask]>
[log in to unmask] writes:
>> ----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>> having entered this discussion rather recently, i will keep this brief in
>> case i'm covering territory already discussed.  i just want to note my
>> apprehension concening the use of sub-titling as opposed to dubbing.  i
>> recently saw a very interesting paper presented on just this topic.  the
>> author, a graduate student at NYU, grew up in Germany and presented a
>> case not just in favor of dubbing, but in an argument similar to the one
>> presented here on the behalf of sub-titling, she urged better dubbing.
>> she said that in Germany as a child, she had always assumed that the
>> german voices she heard when John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart spoke were
>> their real voices and she was actually disappointed to eventually hear
>> their "actual" voices.  the actors in her country work hard and are
>> serious and profressional about their job of translating a Hollywood film
>> into the German language.  the actors that are the voices of one big-name
>> actor are that actor's voice in other films as well.  getting of the
>> occasional discontinuity between lip movement and words spoken is much
>> simpler a task than trying to take in mise-en-scene, action, inflection,
>> etc while reading small yellow or white print on the bottom of a screen.
Having had pretty much the same experience (in Austria, though), let me just
add that I find that practice horrible. No doubt that those gifted German
actors do a good job, a tremendous job even, but when it comes to translating
film-dialogues, a LOT gets lost & distorted. Precisely mise-en-scene,
cutting etc. account for factors which make translation even more
difficult and tiresome than usual. American comedies, e.g., are unwatchable
in German. Besides, to make that point - most dubbing is done in Germany,
so the humour is German, which does not entirely please those German speaking
minorities around (viz. Austrians or even South Germans). Also, most
 dubbing-actors are frequently used in stupid commercials, which gives their
once it appears again in an allegedly serious film, less credibility.
Can you believe somebody as Hamlet whom you just saw praising diapers on TV?
Moreover, while dubbing might help those who don't understand the foreign
language, it frustrates those who do. There is even an argument that precisely
because films are dubbed, foreign language-teaching in Germany or Austria
is so poor, as compared to Switzerland or Holland. Also, with sub-titles,
if you know the language, you can guess whether the translation is good
or bad. With dubbing, you obviously can't.
>> it was indicated in this thread that one goal of foreign films should be
>> to increase their popularity in the US.  to that end, i find it difficult
>> to believe that sub-titling could ever hold the appeal of dubbing unless
>> by popularity you are going for the sweater-vest and tweed crowd.
Go for education - learn foreign languages. If we dub everything into
"American", those Americans will never grow out of their comfortable
>> serious, consistent and professional dubbing, while it may to an extent
>> "Americanize" the film, is really the only realistic way that large
>> audiences are going to embrace "foreign language" films.  look at the
>> relative success British, Australian and even New Zealand films enjoy
>> here as opposed to German, French, Italian, etc.  A British film is no
>> more/no less foreign than a French film, it is simply in a less-foreign
>> language.
While foreignness (in general) does not have quantity (much/less),
it does have characteristic qualities. The foreignness of German films is
just different from the foreignness of British films, with reference to
the US. And maybe it's more difficult to understand - not only due to the
spoken language, but also due to the visual language.
>> movie-goers seem to desire when spending their $8 on an evening out.  if
>> foreign films are to seek a truly wider audience, they should not be
>> sold, as has been contended in this thread, on their novelty as foreign
>> creations but on their internal appeal as entertaining and interesting
>> films.  for this to work, they must also be as fully accessible to the
>> audience as they are in any other country.
No entertainment or interest is ever fully accessible to the whole world, or to
the whole population of a country. Why should "foreign" films try to achieve
something on the US market which even US films can't?
Birgit Kellner
Institute for Indian Philosophy
University of Hiroshima