Gaining Something in the Translation

     I’ve been watching what they like to call “foreign language” films (at the Academy) on Netflix and the occasional DVD signed out from the local library.

     Back when I had more hair I made what I realize now was the obligatory rite of passage for my generation – a trip overseas (back in the day such journeys were considered safe – now, I don’t know.) For 20 months I lived in selected areas of Spain, Israel, England, Holland, Morocco and Greece.

    The languages may have been different, the native cuisine was definitely different, the various ethnic customs and costumes were often strange (to my eyes) but there was an underlying humanity beneath it all.

     I was curious about them and they were curious about me.

     I remember on one memorable evening I threw in with a bunch of Italian travelers. They didn’t speak English and, naturally, I didn’t speak Italian so we attempted to communicate in broken French. (The waiter I had in Paris would have deeply offended.)

     Foreign films and (if you have a Netflix subscription) TV series may be an acquired taste. Viewers accustomed to the hyperventilated pace, meet-cute scenarios and rapid-fire editing of most North American big studio projects may find foreign films baffling. Most foreign entries (which do not try to slavishly imitate Hollywood films) proceed at their own pace. 

        And then there are those pesky subtitles supplied for English-speaking audiences. A friend of mine, whose opinion I normally respect, said to me recently, “I have to be in a certain mood to read subtitles.” Not me. I actually like to hear the performers voicing their dialogue in their own language. I like to savor the feeling of what is really going on in the film and the emotions it arouses. Feeling and emotion cannot really be captured in plain text. (That’s why we have emoticons in our everyday online posts.)

        Besides venturing into narrative territory rarely, if ever, explored in North American blockbusters, having unique premises (which are rarely adapted well in the inevitable English language adaptations) giving me an insight into the country’s customs and worldview and featuring talented performers I might not see otherwise, foreign films show that cinema is truly an international language (subtitles and all).

In future posts I hope to tell you about some of the foreign language films I have enjoyed. But for now, rest assured that you will never lose your luggage and all your money will be accepted at par when you watch foreign films .




Author: rixbitz

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