Archive for ‘Subtitles’


Subtitles are important !

by Marianne Wi

In Italy all films and programmes are dubbed, it is extremely rare to watch a film on TV or in the cinema with subtitles. I really wish this was not so, watching Brad Pitt speaking with a high pitch voice in one film and a deep tenor in another is distracting to say the least. Living here now, as I am lucky enough to do full-time, I have had to forgo the joy of watching an American or English film unless the actors are unknown to me. I did recently catch up with the much acclaimed “The King’s Speech” starring the now BAFTA and Oscar winner Colin Firth, I am reluctant to admit that after a certain length of time, I did forget that it was not Colin Firth speaking and the speech did often match the movement of his mouth….. Using the term “often’’ loosely.

My pet hate has always been the careless way Italian filmmakers slap on subtitles more and less as an afterthought once the film has been produced. While living in London I often walked out mid film if the subtitles were too offensive. One such example was Romanzo Criminale, A Criminal Novel directed by Michele Placido, in fact I walked out with Placido and I returned for the Q&A with him, I was informed that as a director he was not responsible for the subtitles HA X 2 I am sure if he made enough fuss, something would be done.

I have had many discussions with Directors and Producers about this subject; I have indeed written numerous letters to Cinecitta Luce, Medusa, 01 Distribution, Rai  and Iris trying to encourage good subtitling, is the Italian Film Industry taking any notice of Primociak? No is the answer  NOT YET.

The film La Vita e bella, Life is beautiful has perfect subtitles, not a trace of slang made it onto our screens, it won Roberto Benigni 3 Oscars, cinema gold those moments in Hollywood, with Roberto on the chair….. had me wiping away tears of joy,  his follow-up apology for running out of English when he won best Actor ( first foreign actor ever to do that ), as he had not planned 3 speeches was cute too.

Perhaps all producers should sit and read a few films before actually producing any, if I worked for a film festival and was sent hundreds of films to watch; it would hit the “return to sender” box after 10 minutes if I was struggling to understand the subtitles. The biggest mistake are films made with Italian actors who speak in a local accent such as Romanzo Criminale, the gang spoke in a strong roman accent throughout, in an attempt to pass that across to the foreign viewers, we were treated to gimmi, gonna, gotta, cos’of, dammi, lemmi and other London slang, we had to sit for nearly 2 hours READING a London accent just because the gang spoke Roman….Does that makes sense to you?

La vita e bella , Life is beautiful; I would like to think 100% perfect subtitles played some small part in making this film such a great success outside Italy.

Three clips for you from Italy’s biggest Oscar success ever, that is what I call generous. The 3rd Oscar was for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score by Nicola Piovani  ( I was not able to find a clip from this without the whole run up.)

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