Chandler, Arizona, United States

There's an old saying. If you don't want someone to join a crowd, you ask them, "If everyone were jumping off of a cliff, would you?" Well, I have. So my answer would be "Yes". True story.
Profile continued . . .

A Few Details Lost in Translation in Foreign Movies

Saturday, July 14, 2012

this entry brought to you by the beatles, "oh darling"

One of the things I like about watching foreign language films is that you learn aspects of different cultures that the director wasn't necessarily trying to teach you on purpose; what would be an aspect that locals wouldn't even notice about their culture often sticks out like a sore thumb when we watch them. For example, if you watch the Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, you'll notice that Swedish people eat sandwiches a lot. People go to Sandwich delis, offer each other sandwiches, and will go out and buy the other person a sandwich without asking, just assuming that they will want something to eat. They also drink coffee, and if you judge entirely by the movie, they drink coffee even more often than we do. If you read the book they actually drink more coffee and eat more sandwiches, to the point where you start to wonder if these sandwiches they speak of are vastly different than what you and I think of as sandwiches. Like, maybe sandwiches in Sweden make you orgasm.

Sometimes this can backfire, however, making you completely baffled at the tiniest things that aren't even supposed to be a plot point.

For example:

In Let The Right One In, the main character isn't older than 10 years old, yet he's often seen playing way past dark, but it never tells us what time it is. There's even a point where mom is watching TV and the son asks her if he can go outside to play, and she distractedly tells her son yes, he can play, as long as he doesn't get too far from the house. But it is really fucking dark outside. In fact, it's because he goes outside to play in the dark so often that he meets a goddamn vampire. Is this supposed to be a signifier that his mother is negligent? Or is Sweden just one of those countries where it gets dark, like, at 5 in the evening?

At several other points in the movie, kids are doing extracurricular activities at school way past dark. This could be further evidence of Sweden just being a country that gets dark early. Or maybe the director is making a social commentary that Swedish parents are negligent and let their kids do whatever they want. For example, if you were from another country and you saw an American movie where a 16 year old was smoking in front of their mom, you would have no idea if the smoking age was just super lax in whatever state they were in, or if it it was just bad parenting.

Turns out that for Let the Right One In, it just gets dark in Sweden super early.

In the movie 4 Months, 3 Weeks, Two Days, most of the plot hinges on the characters being able to get some amount of whatever currency they use in Romania, where the movie takes place. But not only does the movie take place in Romania, but it specifically takes place in Romania in 1987, when the country was still communist. My wife and I spent a significant amount of time wondering exactly how much they needed in American money, because it would actually make a difference. Was the amount of money they needed the equivalent of $5,000, some amount that would be insurmountable for a couple of college students to borrow and do favors for in a couple of days? Or was it the equivalent of like 50 bucks, and this was to show how bad off Romania was in 1987, that 50 bucks was unreasonable for a person to attain quickly. Think about it. If you're watching a movie that takes place in 1920 and someone is poor and about to be thrown on the street because they need 70 dollars for rent, you understand that is way too much money for them to simply go to their neighbors and say "Hey, can you do me a solid?" But when you're watching a foreign movie and someone is desperate to find 200 kroner or whatever, that could be the equivalent of 2 dollars, and that could be the director's very specific way of saying "Look at how fucked up this is."

One more thing that is weird when you're watching a foreign movie: Foreign people in the foreign movie. Again, in Let the Right One In, there is a teacher who speaks Swedish, but all the children giggle at him whenever he talks. Also, he is strangely buffoonish, and it's difficult to figure out why. Turns out it's because he's Russian. But because Swedish all sounds like Klingon to us, we don't recognize Swedish in a Russian accent. There's probably a whole history of hilarious Russian people coming to Sweden and never fitting in.

Which probably means that when someone who doesn't speak a lick of English watches and American movie, they probably have no idea that British people are British, and wonder why this particular character comes off as pompous for no reason.


with love from CRS @ 11:12 AM 


Post a Comment