Lost in Translation isn’t just a movie, but what happens when we try to map one culture onto another. It’s like a game of Broken Telephone, where what goes in doesn’t always come out the same at the other end. Where’s a good Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Babel fish when you need one?
Here are a few translated films and their countries of origin.*
|Risky Business||Just Send Him To University Unqualified||China|
|The Spy Who Shagged Me||The Spy Who Behaved Very Nicely Around Me||Malaysia|
|The Dark Knight||Knight of the Night||Mexico|
|Annie Hall||Urban Neurotic||Germany|
|You Only Live Twice||007 Dies Twice||Japan|
|The Cat in The Hat||Cat, Don’t Touch This Hat!||Croatia|
|Lost in Translation||Meetings and Failures in Meetings||Portugal|
No doubt, Bob Harris, the American actor hamming his way through Japanese advertising in Lost in Translation as played by Bill Murray, would have been amused. For the most part, though, Sophia Copola’s film escapes the worst of mangled translations, simply called Lost in Translation in many foreign markets, although in Quebec it was translated as Traduction Infidèle and in Hispanic-America as Perdidos en Tokio.
How did a few other films turn out, say for those of Pedro Almodóvar and Alfred Hitchcock, going from Spanish to English for Almodóvar and vice versa for Hitchcock? Perhaps these two great film makers can help clarify the Spanish-English-Spanish makeover.
Almodóvar’s films are almost exact in their translations, from his first Pepi, Luci, Bom, y otras chicas del montón (Pepi, Luci, Bom) to his most recent Los amantes pasajeros (I’m So Excited). Even when word order might make things tricky, All About My Mother is literal to a point as Todo sobre mi madre. Volver doesn’t change at all, as if challenging English audiences to learn a bit of Spanish, albeit in this case only one word (return). About the only thing that gets translated in an Almodóvar film title are the capital letters. Although, in fairness ¡Átame! gets a Hollywood makeover as Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, extra exclamation point included, and Entre tinieblas becomes Dark Habits.
Hitchcock on the other hand gets a hardier makeover. North by Northwest is the weirdest, becoming With Death On The Heels, and Marnie needs an extra The Thief. Even Psycho gets a slight tweak to Psychosis, lessening the villainy it would seem of a person to a disease. See the table below for more translations with retranslated titles where different (via Google Translate).
Two of the more Almodovarian sounding films The Trouble with Harry and The Wrong Man become But … Who Killed Harry? and False Guilty, although perhaps the most Almodovarian The Man Who Knew Too Much gets a clean bill, yet becomes En manos del destino in Central America and Mexico. In other Spanish-speaking countries, Vertigo is De entre los muertos.
One wonders if it is easier to translate sentiments and ideas of Spanish films into English rather than in reverse, especially when the titles are as direct as Almodóvar’s compared to the purposely oblique thriller titles of Hitchcock.
In this limited survey, it would seem things get changed more by Spanish translators. Is this because of a need to appease the minority culture in the face of the onslaught of world English and the dominance of Hollywood myth making? Food For Thought? Comida para pensar?
Almodóvar Spanish to English
|Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón||Pepi, Luci, Bom|
|Laberinto de pasiones||Labyrinth of Passion|
|Entre tinieblas||Dark Habits|
|¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto?||What Have I Done to Deserve This?|
|La ley del deseo||Law of Desire|
|Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios||Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown|
|¡Átame!||Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!|
|Tacones lejanos||High Heels|
|La flor de mi secreto||The Flower of My Secret|
|Carne trémula||Live Flesh|
|Todo sobre mi madre||All About My Mother|
|Hable con ella||Talk to Her|
|La mala educación||Bad Education|
|Los abrazos rotos||Broken Embraces|
|La piel que habito||The Skin I Live In|
|Los amantes pasajeros||I’m So Excited|
Hitchcock English to Spanish (and back where different)
|Spellbound||Cuéntame tu vida||Tell Me Your Life|
|Notorious||Tuyo es mi corazón||Yours Is My Heart|
|Rope||La soga||The Rope|
|Strangers on a Train||Extraños en un tren|
|I Confess||Yo confieso|
|Rear Window||La ventana indiscreta|
|Dial M for Murder||Para atrapar al ladrón|
|The Trouble with Harry||Pero… ¿quién mató a Harry?||But … Who Killed Harry?|
|The Man Who Knew Too Much||El hombre que sabía demasiado|
|The Wrong Man||Falso culpable||False Guilty|
|North by Northwest||Con la muerte en los talones||With Death On The Heels|
|The Birds||Los pájaros|
|Marnie||Marnie, la ladrona||Marnie, The Thief|
|Torn Curtain||Cortina rasgada|
|Family Plot||La Trama||The Plot|