The Subtitle Controversy

Sunday, March 16, 2008 |

Ok- here's a spicy/not angry topic.

Subtitles or Voice Overs(dubbing)? I can sense your hearts beating faster and your mouths watering.

First let me state my position in the debate: Pro Subtitles(even before I actually knew any other language than English). I heart subtitles and movies that have them . I have yet to watch a movie where within five minutes I didn't even realize they were there anymore. And I generally come out of the movie knowing a few new words in a foreign language. The whole magic of Life is Beautiful as far as I'm concerned is LOST when you don't hear the musicality of Roberto Begnini saying "Buon giorno principessa!!" It breaks my heart to think that there are people in the world who love that movie with English dubbing and don't know that they are missing with the Italian. Ché tragedia! I honestly wonder if the people that say they hate them have never given the subtitles a few minutes to disappear or if they copped out early. It does take a few minutes. Just wondering.

Or I've heard people argue that subtitles require reading and thinking and a movie shouldn't be about anything but relaxation and escape. Just as an FYI like 99.99% of the movies with subtitles in English are "thinker" types of movies anyways. They aren't renew and relax experiences no matter what language they are in. Death, destruction, oppression, heartbreak, corruption. This is the key subject matter of foreign films. Reading at the same time is not what makes your brain hurt after watching these movies.

Even when we're not talking actual foreign films, subtitles are still a vital part of my life. As the owner of a mother that has bad(inattentive I think) hearing, subtitles allow her to watch previously inaccessible movies. It is a devastating fact of life that the woman does NOT speak Pirate or any form of British or foreign accent. Not one bit. And so our worlds were changed by me realizing that we could turn on the subtitles and now suddenly she understands the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Now we can watch movies as a family without her saying WHAT DID HE SAY??(Arg) WHAT'S HAPPENING??(They're gonna chase the other pirates) literally every two seconds. I wish she could have her own little subtitles screen at the movie theater. Alas the genius realization I had to turn on the English subtitles does not solve everything. She is still banned from watching mysteries with us. Her lack of attention is not completely fixed by subtitles and she'll still ask WHY?(we don't know yet) WHO'S THAT?(we don't know yet) IS THAT THE BAD GUY(we don't know yet) IS SOMEONE GOING TO DIE? (WOMAN FOR THE LAST TIME - LET THE MYSTERY UNFOLD!!!) But I digress.

My point is I love subtitles and I hate seeing people speak and hearing English come out of their mouths at a different rate of speed. ICK. Unless it's a movie about ninjas or kung fu. Obviously.

So that's my point. Feel free to express your points of view in this hot debate. It's an issue that divides families and tears apart friendships. So let's start the rumble! Wheeeee... carnage!!!


WhiteEyebrows said...

SUBTITLES SUBTITLES SUBTITLES!!!! Need I say more? You made a brilliant case. I can't stand to hear any other voice but the actor's no matter what language.

And what about the advent of TV subtitles, like in Heroes, where they actually let the subtitles exist anywhere on the screen, instead of that dreadful lower 1/6th. Awesomeness. Subtitles become part of the movie.

Rhia Jean said...

Yeah, I tried watching Run, Lola, Run without the subtitles once...HORRIBLE! We made it all of 3 minutes before we were either rolling on the floor with laughter or throwing up in disgust. It's just not even an option anymore.

Alison said...

"I love Kung Fu" ~Name that movie!

I have to agree. It's subtitles all the way, baby. Seriously, with the dubbing, they always pick people with the WORST voice to dub. Why? Why?! Much better with the subtitles. Oh, I just thought of something truly horrible, Amelie without subtitles...tragedy!

JaneHeiress said...

AMELIE without subtitles?! I think my ears would implode. I tried watching La Vita E Bella dubbed once, and nearly puked. I would rather watch a film without understanding a word than watch it dubbed--have actually done that once. As for captioning, it usually distracts me if it's in English because then I'm trying to read and listen at the same time, but after watching so many foreign films it seems odd to not have them. The frustrating thing is that the UK films featuring the thickest regional accents seem to omit subtitles. Ugh.

But what about widescreen vs. fullscreen? That's an entirely different debate, but also one of artistic relevance, in my opinion.

Erica said...

The answer is widescreen. Always widescreen. I would blog about this but anyone who is my friend better have the discernment to know it is widescreen.

I guess I also should have maybe realized carnage would not ensue in this debate because my friends who like voiceovers don't read blog. Don't read my blog.

Gabby said...

I love subtitles (because I love anime, and anime dubbed is just wrong, because Engliss-speaking people trying to say Japanese names/words are pretty lame), and I'm pretty good at it, so I usually can take everything in and not miss anything. AND, widescreen is THE way to go. ^_^

Rubymelt said...

I heart subtitles too!!!! Have you seen The Diving Bell & The Butterfly? Amazing! Also, La Vie En Rose is very well done.