cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

FILM subtitles





La Règle du jeu [1957]

La Règle du jeu [1957]






Decades of Dialogue: 15 Classic French Movies to Develop Your Speaking


From French language and culture blog FluentU


Well any excuse for another film list. It’s good-films-to-learn-French-from with the added French films you might never have come across.

At the beginning, just saying, I feel there must be a chain of COTA post where I say the same thing that is going into this one. And the worry is I have not recollection of these others and there is only a small set of facts and ideas in my brain on film, such as Chinatown is my favourite screenplay.

But anyway, how lucky you are if you can speak French [or Swedish, German, Danish, Polish, or Czech…Russian] well and don’t need subtitles. Some people I know simple won’t watch subtitled film or tv. A great loss – all those Scandi noirs – but there you are.

We all know how terrible subtitles can be [or were]. In most cases it’s just a source of merriment. In that particular section of dialogue we recognised enough [It’d probably have to be French as that the one we have a smattering of..] to see the subtitle completely garbled the punchline the screenwriter so carefully crafted.

~

A COTA post that never got finished took on Lanzmann’s Shoah as an example of where translation can go wrong and be a source of worry. Shoah’s simultaneous translation involved three stages: Lanzmann asks his translator in English [so the English speaking audience can hear his question…], his translator would translate it into, say Polish, listen to the answer, then translate back to French or English. Here we would be watching the English sub-title version. A notorious example was where the subtitle rendered a reply by a Polish man as Yid, or some equally unpleasant word, when the Polish man had used the Polish for “Jew”. Here, Lanzmann relied on the skill of his simultaneous translator because he would base his next question on that rendering. As an aside, Lanzmann has a very insistent interrogatory style of questioning, which added a further layer of possible misinterpretation of the interviewee. That is to say, through a second language, Lanzmann would understand what he thought the reply was, and respond with a question based on that.

Then there’s Godard [If Godard is mentioned in a COTA post I get 5 extra points..],


godard english cannes: The Reception of Film Socialisme‘s “Navajo English” Subtitles


Samuel Bréan, Senses of Cinema, Issue 60, Oct 2011


Sit back enjoy JLG take on subtitles.


I’ve mentioned before I see subtitles in roughly the same category as the problems of translation in general. Briefly, a poem or novel in one language – especially a poem because it is such a concise expression of language – is pretty much a different poem in another. Though not to everyone’s taste, Douglas Hofstadter’s big conceptually expansive, Le Ton beau de Marot, which takes as his translation task the slight poem [ditty..] by Clement Marot, asking family and friends to translate it. Many of the results are included. The book as usual with Hofstadter, takes a longer complex journey within, beyond, into wider questions than just turning one language into others such AI.

For me, the business of language translation is one starting point for an understanding of film adaptation. Films adapted from novels should be of interest to anyone who loves film and who wants to understand how scripts are made into films.

The one I always mention is Pinter’s Proust. He wrote a screenplay which Joseph Losey was to direct. The money wasn’t raised and so it was never made. Pinter had it published. It was later done on BBC Radio as The Pinter Proust Play. There are posts on this which you can find by using the blog search box, to see exactly what went on.

Pinter’s screenplay is at the extreme edge of adaptation. Those critical of the screenplay say it is Pinter not Proust. How can you ‘translate’ thousands of pages into a 1hour 20 minute screenplay? And how can you leave out all the enormous paragraphs consisting of a single sentence? Film after film has been made of Proust with varying degrees of success. Most have taken a section like Swann’s Way, rather than the whole book. I like the Pinter. Though I haven’t read Proust from cover to cover, and admit it rather than get egg on my face when questioned about it, when I’d listened to the radio adaption – very effective because it relied so much for its effect on repeated sounds – I got the screenplay and with use an e-book of Proust, worked from the script to book, searching the text for the various parts depicted to see what he started with.

I have no plan to adapt a book into a screenplay just yet. Well, never unless it’s my own. But it seems one of the best ways to grasp screenplay writing. What can and can’t be done. or what is done and how it turns out in the film. And of course the lessons it teaches about what can and can’t be done in film per se.

A screenplay is translated into a film.


Other:


The Rhetoric of translation


pdf 14 pp.



September 28, 2016 - Posted by | film adaptation, Film script/screenplay, Film Socialisme, film subtitles | , ,

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