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December 1996, Week 2


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Meredith McMinn <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 13 Dec 1996 03:34:06 -0800
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On Wed, 11 Dec 1996, Dan Gribbin Ferrum College Virginia wrote:
> Though I have experienced student distaste for subtitled films (they involve
> reading, after all), I remain vehemently opposed to dubbing.  Whether the
> language is one that the viewer is relatively familiar with or not, the loss
> of original voice inflection that results from dubbing is catastrophic in
> most cases.  One has only to view (and listen to) the dubbed vs. the
> subtitled versions of "The Conformist" to drive this point home.  The
> negative effect of dubbing is exponentially increased if the film happens to
> star one's favorite foreign actor, but I won't go into that.  We might make a
> list of excellent films which lose much of their effect in dubbed form.  I'd
> certainly rank "Das Boot" high on the list.  The tension generated by the
> predicament of a submarine crew trapped underwater is almost totally defused
> by inappropriate and tinny dubbed voices.  What a relief when the subtitled
> version (which I had originally seen in the theater) became available on VHS.
>  Another interesting category of experience to consider is the viewing of a
> foreign film in the host country, so to speak, without benefit of subtitles
> or dubbing.  "Keiner Liebt Mich" (Nobody Loves Me) is an example of a film
> which comes across pretty well whether one is up on one's German or not.
>  After viewing a film without subtitles, however, one appreciates the value
> of subtitling all the more, given the opportunity to pick up on nuances of
> meaning.  Then again, there is a big difference between good subtitling and
> poor subtitling, not to mention the problem of reading white subtitles in a
> film in which the actors all seem to be wearing white shirts and blouses.
> Dan Gribbin
> Ferrum College
> [log in to unmask]
I couldn't agree more.  Your remark about seeing an un-subtitled film in
its original language and context reminds me of a related, though quite
different experience.  Many years ago I was living on Okinawa and had the
unnerving--and very comic--experience of hearing American films and TV
shows, some of which I grew up with, dubbed in Japanese.  It made my
own point about the value of hearing the original actors perhaps even
better than when the situation is reversed, which is the more common
experience for most of us.
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