Ask any self-respecting film fan whether they prefer to see a foreign film with subtitles or dubbed voiceovers, and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get slapped for even asking such a dumb question. Subtitles always have and always will be the only way to truly preserve the director’s original vision… right? Well, there are a couple of interesting news stories that came out this week that serve as a reminder why this may not always be such a cut-and-dry issue.
Earlier this week, the perceptive folks over at Icons of Fright revealed to the world that the subtitles on the DVD for the Swedish vampire film Let The Right One In had been changed significantly from the theatrical release of the film. They seemed to dumb down a lot of the dialogue and in some cases completely altered the tone of a scene. While I’m not necessarily implying that dubbing would have solved the problem, I think it’s important to point out that subtitles are still only as good as the translator writing them.
On a seemingly unrelated note, it was also announced this week that Hayao Miyazaki’s latest animated blockbuster Ponyo will be coming to North American shores this August. The English-language version is being produced by Disney, with a star-studded voice cast that includes Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, and Lily Tomlin, among others. I’ve always found that the Disney dubs for Miyazaki’s films are quite good, mainly thanks to the quality of the translation, and the A-list actors involved. To anyone who would argue adamantly for subtitles in this case, I ask: what about the kids who aren’t old enough to read? Shouldn’t they be allowed to enjoy this movie too?
I guess I’m not really making an argument for one side or the other here, I’m just bringing up some issues for discussion within this age old debate. What do you think? Do you have a preference when it comes to subtitles or dubbing? Are there cases where one is more appropriate than the other? Give us your thoughts here on Open Forum Friday.