Tag Archives: Hollywood

Subtitles

There is a movie theater a few towns down the road from us that has a dedicated screen for Bollywood films. I’ve only been to a handful of shows, but it is kind of nice to have a place to see relatively new Indian films with proper subtitles, since it can be tough to see a movie with good quality subtitles if you buy a DVD of questionable origin at the Indian grocery store (ahem, “3 Idiots” and “Rajneeti”… having every third sentence somewhat translated does not count!)

About a year and a half ago I went with our Nepali friend KS and two of her friends (one Indian and one Burmese, although to a white American high school student selling movie tickets they probably all “looked Indian”). I just happened to be the first of our little group in line and I asked if I could buy one ticket for “I Hate Luv Stories.” (I know, it has a silly name, you have to sign up for a bit of cheesiness with Bollywood romantic comedies).

The white high school kid blinked at me and said, “Um, you know that’s an Indian movie, right?”

“Yeah…”

“And it’s not in English…”

“So?”

But then I paused… maybe the movie didn’t have subtitles. I’ve sat through Bollywood movies in India without subtitles before, and although they can still be entertaining, and the general plot is easy enough to follow, a lot of the details are lost, and I wind up making up plot points or interpret things differently. It wouldn’t have been the end of the world to see yet another movie without subtitles, but if I was paying $12 for a movie, I wanted to follow the story.

“It has subtitles, doesn’t it?” I asked.

“Um, yeah.” He answered.

“Then what’s the problem?”

“Well, a lot of people don’t like reading subtitles, I just wanted to check and make sure you knew.”

I paid for my movie ticket and waited for the other three women (none of which were asked if they minded the subtitles, even though one of them would also need them) and we went inside.

I like all sorts of movies. P and I have spent many an evening curled up watching Netflix, and although we wind up watching a lot of American films, we don’t limit ourselves to English speaking cinema. I’ve watched many a good film in German, French, Italian, Russian, Norwegian, Chinese, Thai, or Hindi. There are many great movies out there that would be missed if one is put off by subtitles.

My boss is Danish, so it’s not surprising that he is a fan of Scandinavian cinema, but one of his biggest pet peeves is when a perfectly good foreign film is remade in Hollywood in English. He doesn’t understand why Americans can’t “simply watch the original with subtitles, like the rest of the world.” He always uses the example of the Danish film “Brødre.” He really enjoyed the original, and didn’t like the American remake. He thought the Danish film could have done well in the US if it had been given the chance.

Danish trailer

American trailer

Perhaps with the backdrop of the war in Afghanistan, the Danish film might not have struck the same cord with an American audience as an American solider fighting in the same war, but I still really enjoyed the original.

This conversation came up again with the American version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

“The Swedish movies were so well made, and the books were originally in Swedish, why does the world need an American remake? Why can’t Americans just appreciate the original with subtitles? The original movie is already an international sensation!” He lamented during our office Christmas party.

Certainly hearing the dialogue in Swedish gives the characters a more authentic feel even though I don’t understand what is being said. It adds to the energy and the tone of the film.

Swedish trailer (English version)

American trailer

I haven’t seen the American version yet, so I can’t really compare, however I do remember watching the original Swedish movies. During the post-Christmas blizzard of 2010 P and I were staying with his brother in Philadelphia. It was late at night, but P and I weren’t tired yet, and so we were scanning through Netflix looking for something interesting to watch. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was streaming, as well as the second movie in the trilogy “The Girl who Played with Fire” both in Swedish. I hadn’t read the books, but I had heard so much about them that P and I decided to give the movie a shot. We were so sucked in to the story that we watched the second movie immediately after the first even though it was already two o’clock in the morning. We were equally eager to watch the final movie once it was available streaming a few months later.

I understand that Hollywood is a big money making machine, so if the film industry can cash in on “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” it will. However don’t shy away from an awesome original just because it has subtitles. Hollywood isn’t the only place to find interesting things to watch.

Now I guess I have to be on the look out for the repackaging of the film in Bollywood…