Getting Away With It – The Subtitle Enigma

Thinking some more on Umbrellas of Cherbourg, I remember I had an idea a few years ago that I never really articulated, but wanted to explore, and that is this:

Subtitled films can get away with a lot of pap.

Even the clunkiest of lines, if said in earnest, can come off if you read it, instead of hearing it. This is, of course, down to the performance partly, but as long as this plays, you can get away with a lot more. I see so many foreign films where I read a line, and it jars a *little* and I think “god, if you heard that in English…without the poetic/unfamiliar language…”. Such suspicions were confirmed when I went to see Umbrellas.

…wanted to make a film that was all gibberish, to test out this hypothesis…but it seems a bit pointless. Might give it a go some day!

I think part of my fascination with subtitled movies is precisely that I don’t know what’s going on with the performance. In  English, I understand how people say things, how it’s connected to their physicality, and how it CONTRASTS to the words. That connection is snapped when you’re not exactly sure of what they’re saying. Besides, playing lines exactly as their meaning implies isn’t ininteresting to us, we’re all looking for the subtext…films with subbies make it easier to get into that frame of mind (for me, anyway).

EDIT: Forgot to say, I had long wanted to make a film entirely in gibberish, with some really strained dialogue, but played absolutely honestly and see how it goes down. Maybe this is all much more to do with strength of performance than I give credit to…that is, after all, how (most of) LotR managed to not seem ridiculous.

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