01 October 2008

And now a Word about Dubbing...


No, seriously. I really hate dubbed* films and television programs, which is a bit unfortunate for me since I now live in a country in which foreign-language films are almost exclusively dubbed rather than subtitled.**

German Trailer for House of Flying Daggers

Aside from the cultural implications of watching a Chinese film set in 859 AD, in which everyone seems to be remarkably fluent in German, there is something disembodying (and creepy) about separating performers from their voices. For instance, one of my friends thinks that Brad Pitt and George Clooney are really hot, and I have another friend who is crazy about John Malkovich. Well these women have no idea how hot these men truly are because they've never heard their real voices. To German ears they sound like this:

German Trailer for Burn after Reading

Well ladies, this one's for you:

US Trailer for Burn after Reading

(Okay, to be fair, trying to spot Brad Pitt's hotness behind that haircut is a challenge, but I think you get my point.)

Furthermore, there aren't that many dubbing actors, so after a while Daniel Craig sounds just like Tom Cruise, who sounds just like Javier Bardem. And it's probably best to skip entirely what happens to black American actors in the dubbing arena. Aaaarrrrggghhh!!!

My voice is just as much a part of me as my face, my body, and my mannerisms. To open my mouth and hear another woman's voice would be unthinkable for me, and for anybody else for that matter. Yet, when I refuse to go see dubbed films and insist on either the original-language version or a German film, my friends get annoyed. They seem to assume that films are dubbed everywhere and that I should be used to it. Well I know that at least in the US and the UK they are not. Going to see a foreign film in either of those countries means reading subtitles. This revelation is sometimes met with disbelief, particularly in the case of the US, where it is assumed that we are generally too stupid to read ... as if stupid people are going to art house cinemas to watch foreign films.


When a foreign-language film is marketed in the US or the UK, sometimes there is no dialogue featured in the trailer--just music and/or a voiceover:

US Trailer for Pan's Labyrinth

But if there's dialogue, it is subtitled. Yes, even in a trailer:

US Trailer for The Lives of Others

Can you imagine how completely unrealistic and jarring that would have been with North American English coming out of those mouths? I can't and am really happy that I don't have to, either.

To be perfectly honest, I am quite lucky in Berlin. There are several venues that feature the films in the original versions or with German subtitles. So I can't complain too much. Still, when I'm listening to the film magazine on my favorite radio station, I have to switch it off. It drives me crazy when they feature a segment on Hollywood films, like the one this morning on Burn after Reading. After describing how great the performances are, they played a few audio clips. I don't know who those people were, but they sure weren't Pitt, Clooney, Malkovich, and the rest of the cast.

Well, at least not as I know them.

*The term in Germany is synchronized.
**In the interest of fairness, however, here's a link to a short article on the Goethe Institute website about the history of dubbing in Germany.

1 comment:

  1. Dearest Inez,

    sei doch bitte nicht so böse mit uns ... wir/ich habe seit 58 Jahren n u r synchronisierte Filme gesehen (also, natürlich auch manchmal welche im Original, aber eben nicht im normalen Kino). Es ist für mich völlig normal .. Dass es für dich, die so sehr über die Ohren aufnimmt (ich sag nur "ach so" :-)), schwer zu akzeptieren ist, dass wir Brad Pitt klasse finden auch mit der "falschen" Stimme, kann ich verstehen. Aber das ist mal wieder eine der vielen Fallen der "interculturalidad" ....
    Me in Essen
    PS. Hast du eine neue E-Mail-Adresse? Meine Mails kommen nicht an.