Lost in Translation: Film Titles Gone Astray

Movie titles are important for marketing, and the correct translation of a movie title, taking into account cultural sensitivity, contributes to making that movie a success. It is more surprising, therefore, that some English-language titles are being translated in such a way that leads to all sorts of problems, and at best, may sound very funny and cause confusion. Below, I will present some of those titles, focusing on those titles translated for the benefit of Russian, French and Spanish-speaking audiences.  

Russian Silver Lining Poster

  1. Silver Linings Playbook – Russian Translation: Мой парень – псих – literal meaning: My boyfriend – a loony. 

This has to be one of the most ridiculous title translations. There is nothing subtle about the Russian title of this film, and the title suggests a cheap comedy flick, rather than a more sophisticated movie which is refreshing, layered and solidly acted.

    2. Limitless – Russian Translation: Области тьмы – literal meaning: Zones of darkness.

Not much thought was spent considering this title translation. “The Dark Fields“, the US film’s working title and the original title of the book the film is based upon, was translated, but it still did not make a lot of sense. The title emphasis should have been on the super-powers of the hero, but, instead, the title suggests this is either some UFO-abduction or a mysterious crop circles’ story.  

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Unpopular Opinion Tag (Films)

unpopular-opinionfilm-tagRichard at The Humpo Show has tagged me to get involved in this Unpopular Opinion Tag (Films edition), and I thought it would be great fun since I have to pick three films generally loved by most people, but which I find undeserving of all the hype and explain my choices. Thanks again, Richard!

In particular, the rules are as follows:

  1. Pick three movies which most people like, except you;
  2. Tag a minimum of five (or more) other people;
  3. Thank the person who has tagged you.

So, without further ado, I pick American Beauty (1999), Dead Poets Society (1989) and The Cabin in the Woods (2012). Be warned, spoilers ahead

4e5d899fb6d6955af67044f6ced65cecI. American Beauty (1999)

IMDb score: 8.4; Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%. 

I am a fan of Sam Mendes (see “Revolutionary Road(2008) and “Skyfall(2012)), but “American Beauty” is just far from being a great film everyone thinks it is. The film is just a pretentious and self-indulgent portrayal of middle-class family life in the suburban USA. It may appeal to the audience because of its strong performances, alluring direction and cinematography, and its beautiful soundtrack, but its self-conscious, manipulative play with the its melodramatic narrative leaves much to be desired, and all of its characters are unlikable. Through the narrative of our already dead protagonist, middle-aged Lester, “American Beauty” looks at the example of a middle-class suburban life cynically, romanticising the exploitation and commodification of female bodies, the maniac and perverted pursuit of underage girls, and the use of drugs, among other things. The film thinks Lester, played by Kevin Spacey, is another “Great Gatsby”, who died being misunderstood by everyone and because of some unfortunate series of events. In fact, the film glorifies a protagonist that is abusive and manipulative, and that is only too happy to gain and exploit the attention of young girls to satisfy his own sexual needs (Lester Burnham is an anagram of “Humbert learns” (from Nabokov’s controversial “Lolita”). Though some of its scenes are entertaining, the film’s overall self-importance is just laughable, and the messages its sends are, if not shocking, then definitely very tasteless.
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