I Watch Dubbed Movies, So What?
Earlier this fall, “The Lion King” was re-released in 3-D. Most of the commentary focused on its surprising box office success. Disney, seeing an opportunity, quickly announced several more 3D enhanced refurbishings. What shocked me was the silence. Sure, there were a few complaints about messing around with art but not many. Compare this to when Ted Turner took his catalog of black and white classic (and not so classic) films and began to colorize them. Led by the likes of Steven Spielberg, the howls were deafening. They succeeded. When was the last time you saw a colorized movie on television?
But film has been a highly commercial art since its birth. Whether they are creating high budget blockbusters or Kickstarter funded indie films, producers always dream of box office riches. To achieve these dreams moviemakers have been willing to show their art any place they can get an audience. From iPhones to flat screen TVs to stadium seat theatres, today we see the same movie in many dramatically different settings. Is seeing Avatar on the back of a seat of a transpacific flight really seeing it? Is a censored version of The Mission in a Bolivian theatre really the same movie as the full version in an American theatre?
There no longer is a uniform viewing experience.
So why is there a never ending vitriol for the dubbing of foreign movies? Just the other day I was reading the comments section for a French zombie movie on iTunes day and the movie was being voted down relentlessly because it was dubbed. One commenter said that once he found out the iTunes version was dubbed he went out and bought the “original version that the artist intended you to see.” Um, this is a zombie film people. I rented it and the dubbing was fine.
I used to be that way. I could define for you the appropriate version of a film and the acceptable setting for viewing the film. Anything else and you were not a serious person.
A changing point in my feelings about dubbing came when I saw a dubbed version of the French adaptation of Harlan Coben’s novel Tell No One. This excellently dubbed film was thrilling. At first, I was thrown off by the dubbing but once my brain adjusted I soon forgot the movie was dubbed. A year later I decided to watch the subtitled version on Netflix. It was considerably less engaging. Watching a thriller (or a zombie movie) where you spend the whole time reading the bottom quarter of the screen sucks the life out of the action. I never could get into the flow of the film. It also was tiring. Neuroscience tells us that reading is a learned skill while listening is natural.
We have all seen comically bad film dubbings. In fact, I recently quit watching an Italian zombie movie because it was so poorly dubbed. I just want the choice. Besides, it’s not always art sometimes it’s just a zombie flick.