why can’t people read?

Ok, these weren't the actual subtitles for Let The Right One In 😉

A few days ago, I heard that they are making a Hollywood version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Apparently starring Daniel Craig.


What’s wrong with the Swedish version?  It’s had rave reviews.  It was a Swedish book, written by a Swedish author.  what is making it ‘Hollywood’ going to add.  Oh, apart from not having to read subtitles.

I am a firm advocate of ‘World Cinema’, which is such a strange term.  After all, surely the US is part of the world, so Hollywood blockbusters should still be included in the term.  In fact, wriing that reminds me of an article I wrote which I shall now C+P, lol

I love films. I love a huge range of films. I love films that sometimes I don’t even understand because the journey is so entertaining and/or beautifully crafted.

(I say ‘films’ because I am over 25 and British, but of course others across the world may replace that word with ‘movies’ – can you please do that for yourself for the remainder of this article as I can’t change my reference to them after all these years!)

I have seen some fantastic films over the years, which unfortunately I have been unable to discuss with many friends as they have never even heard of the majority of them, let alone seen them.

Why would this be? For the simple fact that the majority of my favourite films are in a foreign language, or given the grandiose title of ‘World Cinema’. It often makes me wonder where all the English speaking countries are if they don’t belong to the World!

There are some amazing films out there that the majority of people I know would not even consider watching. The beautifully crafted Studio Ghibli films have managed to straddle the two sides by using known Western actors to dub the voices of their gorgeously surreal animated offerings – but of course cartoons are more acceptable for this treatment, and have been for years. (Dogtanian & The Three Muskehounds, Ullyses 31 or The Mysterious Cities of Gold anyone?). In fact Spirited Away has been my daughter’s favourite film since she was six.

Those into their horror are never going to find anything as intensely thrilling as Japanese or Korean horror films (known as J-Horror or K-Horror). Again, the west seem to try to get round that by remaking the most successful near enough exactly frame-by-frame in English – eg, Ringu becomes The Ring. But people who only watch the American remakes are missing something. Somehow the Asian originals have a beauty and depth to them…and an inherent sadness that never seems to come across in the remakes.

The best J&K-Horror films I have seen have always felt like they have a different relationship to the dead. Generally, the ghosts/entities/beings who are dead are the ones that have had wrong done to them and they are just resetting the balance between good and bad. You start the film fearing the ‘monster’ and end the film feeling sorry for them. Included within this are some truly jumpy moments and tremendous tension.

I also have a small girl with long straight dark hair that often hangs down over her face, so I have added fear thrown at me on dark nights!

‘World Cinema’ is also good for thrillers, gore and revenge. There is usually a far better (or more unique) back story to account for a killing spree and (if that is what you are in the mood for) they are willing to push you right to the limits of grossness. If anyone can watch Audition (S. Korean), Old Boy (S. Korean) or Martyrs (French) without feeling a little sick, then I take my hat off to you.

But it’s not all about blood and tension, there are some truly beautiful and moving films out there too. Everyone is familiar with Amelie that also seems to have straddled audiences, possibly because of its limited dialogue that gives it more universal appeal.

The Wave (German) is a very insightful commentary on the human psyche; 3 Iron (S. Korean) is a beautiful, touching, magical love story – again with barely any dialogue; Persepolis (Iranian) is a simple animated thought-provoking story of exile; City of God (Brazilian) and Tsotsi (S. African) are gritty, realistic stories of young lives in violent poverty; The Girl On The Bridge (French) is a beautifully shot, touching story of luck and love (and stars the gorgeous Vanessa Paradis as an added bonus!)

I’ll admit that I haven’t seen too many foreign comedies that I enjoy, because I think humour is one of those things that doesn’t translate so well, country to country — but the ones that I have enjoyed have tended to be French (and seem to star Jean Reno!)

I could go on forever, listing foreign-language films that I believe everyone should watch. By refusing to read subtitles, I think people are being very short-sighted and cutting out a whole swathe of unique, original and surprising stories that they wont otherwise get a chance to see.

The words are well worth the effort – you may get to experience a whole new culture. And it’s always harder to tell bad acting when you can’t understand the dialogue!

There is actually a part of me that is wondering whether to add a ‘Foreign film reviews’ tab to my blog, as I seem to get through quite a few.  I watched some at the weekend.  I especially liked the French ‘Tell No One’ and the brilliant Spanish ‘Timecrimes’.  I wonder if it’s something that readers might be interested in (after all, there are just as many rubbish foreign language films out there as there are english-speaking!


4 thoughts on “why can’t people read?

Add yours

  1. Dogtanian was dubbed?!?!?!? You have put a whole new spin on my childhood.
    I agree with you, mostly, but the only thing that is irritating is when the subtitles CLEARLY don’t reflect what is actually being said on screen. I definitely think you should start doing a foreign films review section – that would be ace.

    1. LOL – I loved Dogtanian…but saw an episode recently and was thinking “Did I really used to rave about this??!” 😉

      I know what you mean about some of the subtitles issues – I remember going to see a Swedish film at the Barbican with a Swedish friend about 15 years ago and there were a couple of points during the film where they said something, and there were no subtitles, and she burst out laughing, so I asked “What?” and she said “Oh…it just wouldn’t translate properly, don’t worry!”


      Hmmm – I may do the foreign film reviews – but I’ll have to go back over some of my faves that I haven’t watched for ages 🙂 (Eg Battle Royale, Nikita, The Girl On The Bridge)

  2. I am thoroughly enamoured with the Swedish film versions of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium books, having seen both “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” I anxiously await the release of “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.” In this century, the theft of great movies by Hollywood is no longer a secret; it’s only business, but they should try to be ..what is the word? ORIGINAL!

    1. I haven’t seen Played With Fire yet. And I have the Hornet’s Nest book sitting on the table next to me as it’s (probably) next on my pile to read 🙂 Fantastic books, and I’m sure Hollywood wont be able to do them justice.

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