Read a Movie
April 08, 2014
If you love cinema, eventually you’re going to start looking beyond Hollywood for entertainment. Often that means watching a foreign language film. Unless you speak or understand the language in question, this brings up a point of much contention: dubbed or subbed?
Dubbing, when done well, makes a foreign language film accessible to a much wider market. When dubbing is done poorly, the results can be laughable: questionable translation, inept voice acting, and words that in no way match the movement of the actors’ mouths. This has led to a whole genre of parody films where bad dubbing is the central joke.
Even if a film is well-dubbed, I usually prefer to watch the subtitled version. For one thing, I like to hear the original actors’ performance strictly for the emotional content. I also enjoy trying to pick out the handful of words that I might recognize in that language. And then there’s just the experience of hearing another language spoken. I’ve even learned some nuances of languages that I don’t speak. Thanks to foreign films, I can tell the difference between Castilian Spanish and Mexican Spanish without having a clue as to what is being said!
Yes, subtitling can sometimes be bad, too. Translation can still be awkward or nonsensical. At other times, dialog may be condensed or abridged to fit in the available area at the bottom of the screen. In a few cases, the original creative team may oversee the casting and performance of an English language dub. The films of Hayao Miyazaki come to mind here, and I’ve always watched the dubbed versions of these when available simply because the voice acting in them is superb.
Here are a few notable foreign films from MCPL’s collection for those who would like to “read a movie.”
- Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Thai)
- Trollhunter (Norwegian)
- House/Hausu (Japanese)
- Wings of Desire (German)
- The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (French)
- House of Flying Daggers (Mandarin)
- Road, Movie (Hindi)
- Gomorrah (Italian)
- Cell 211 (Spanish)