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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Odd English-to-Swedish movie title translations

I’m not a big fan of translated movie titles. I live in Sweden, and while it doesn’t happen that much nowadays, it used to be common practice to give foreign films a Swedish title. Granted, many original titles might be awkward or referencing something that might be obscure to the average Swede, so there are instances where it’s warranted. That doesn’t mean it isn’t annoying searching fervently for The Descent on my DVD shelves for a couple of minutes until I remember that it has the Swedish title Instängd (direct translation: Trapped) on the spine.

Some Swedish titles work. They make sense, are catchy and stick in the public conciousness. Nobody calls Jaws by its original name here. It’s Hajen (The Shark). One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is known by the shortened Gökboet (The Cuckoo’s Nest), a term that has since entered our language to describe any place one might find maddening (our school cafeteria was named Gökboet, for instance, which says a lot about what the staff thought of us students). On the other hand, some translated titles are never used even if they’re not terrible. The first Star Wars movie is officially titled Stjärnornas krig (War of the Stars) here, but good luck finding anyone who calls it that. Anyone below retirement age, that is.

Theme naming films based on the people involved used to happen somewhat regularly. The best example is arguably Mel Brook‘s filmography. I assume the sentiment was that The Producers was kind of a dull name that translated or not wouldn’t really indicate comedy. The movie was retitled after the play-within-the-film, Det våras för Hitler (Springtime for Hitler). Fair enough, but then they took the Springtime ball and ran with it. The Twelve Chairs became Det våras för svärmor (Springtime for Mother-in-law). Blazing Saddles became Det våras för sheriffen (Springtime for the Sheriff). After that, we got springtimes for Frankenstein, the silent movie, the psychos, the history of the world, Hamlet, space and the slums. The streak was finally broken with Robin Hood: Men in Tights, which got the direct translation Robin Hood: Karlar i trikåer.

Another example of this kind of theme naming sprung up around Goldie Hawn. After her 1978 movie Foul Play became a hit in Sweden with the name Tjejen som visste för mycket (The Girl Who Knew Too Much), a lot of movies starring her during the 80s got The Girl Who [x] titles. More misleading are the film collaborations of Michael Douglas, Kathless Turner and Danny DeVito. Adventure flick Romancing the Stone got the title Den vilda jakten på stenen (The Crazy Hunt for the Stone), which isn’t a bad name, all things considered. And that its sequel Jewel of the Nile then became Den vilda jakten på juvelen (The Crazy Hunt for the Jewel) is also acceptable. But then the unrelated black comedy War of the Roses arrived with the same main players, and it became Den vilda jakten på lyckan (The Crazy Hunt for the Happiness) here in Sweden. From what I’ve read, theater-goers in the US were quite thrown off by the film’s dark tone, expecting it to be similar to the trio’s earlier light-hearted fare. I imagine the problem was magnified over here at the time.

Perhaps the crown jewel of bad Swedish movie titles is It Could Happen To You. Remember what that film is about? No? It’s about a policeman who gives a waitress 2 million dollars in tip through a lottery ticket. If you were Swedish, there’s no way you’d forget. It’s name over here is Polis ger servitris 2 miljoner i dricks (Policeman Gives Waitress 2 Millions in Tips). According to IMDB, this was the working title for the movie when it was in production. Before someone realized it was a terrible name, I assume. Shame they didn’t tell us.

Every now and then, distributors and translators get a bit too creative. They’re seized by some spark of mad inspiration, resulting in some rather unusual new names for various films. The great movie Swingers got hit bad, arriving in the aftermath of a fairly memetic local commercial for chips. It was thus nonsensically named after a line from said commercial: Du, var är brudarna? (Hey, Where are the Chicks at?). Sometimes, the translators want to use a catchy rhyme. Winona Ryder‘s 1989 film Heathers became Häxor, läxor och dödliga lektioner (Witches, Homework and Deadly Classes), for instance. There’s also Jay & Silent Bob Srike Back, which ended up becoming Stjärnor utan hjärnor (Stars Without Brains). And sometimes they go for weak puns. Take Grosse Point Blank, for instance. The Swedish title is the unwieldly Även en lönnmördare behöver en träff ibland (Even an Assassin Needs a Date Every Now and Then), playing on the word “träff” which can mean both “date” and “hit”.

How about this title: Bleka dödens minut (Pale Death’s Minute). What kind of images does a name like that conjure up for you? Maybe a horror film? Maybe some heavy melodrama? Well, you’d be wrong. It’s The Princess Bride. Another one that seems particularly reviled on Swedish movie forums is Sergio Leone‘s highly beloved Once Upon a Time in the West. Swedish title: Harmonica – en hämnare (Harmonica – An Avenger).

Buster Keaton‘s films have also spawned some interesting new titles. Apparently, the translators liked to pick three nouns and just slap them together. Our Hospitality became Krut, kulor och kärlek (Gunpowder, Bullets and Love), Sherlock Jr. oddly turned into alliterative Fart, flickor och faror (Speed, Girls and Hazards), and College ended up as punny Rodd, hopp och kärlek (Rowing, Hope and Love).

My favorite, however, might have to be the 1954 monster movie Them!. Something of a landmark in science fiction films, it’s about giant mutated bugs wrecking havoc. While the original title is catchy and memorable, it doesn’t really translate well directly to my native language (“Dom!” would just look really weird to my eyes). So some rethinking was in order, and it ended up with the somewhat generic title Spindlarna (The Spiders). Not very imaginative, of course, but I suppose it works fairly… Wait, what’s that, you say? There are no spiders anywhere in the film? The giant bugs are actually ants? Oh.

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Posted by on 21 July, 2011 in Misc.

 

50 DMC Day 50 – Favorite black-and-white film

More info on The 50 Day Movie Challenge here and here.

Repulsion is one of the finest horror films ever made. The sense of dread and decay (both physical and mental) is highly potent and never fails to give me the chills. The lack of color only emphasises the tension. It’s a very beautifully shot film, with the always stunning Catherine Deneuve in an awesome and eerie lead performance. Roman Polanski has rarely been better. You can read more thoughts of mine on this great film in this post I wrote about women-going-mad movies.

 

And thus, we’ve reached the end of The 50 Day Movie Challenge. I’ve had a lot of fun doing this thing, especially hunting around for clips to use and being reminded of why I love certain films so much. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as well. As for what’s next on this blog, I don’t know. I have nothing in particular planned, so we’ll see what happens. I wouldn’t expect any daily updates or anything, but hopefully I’ll come up with something to write about every now and then.

 
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Posted by on 16 July, 2011 in 50 Day Movie Challenge

 

50 DMC Day 49 – A movie that will always make you think of a special moment

More info on The 50 Day Movie Challenge here and here.

I’m actually drawing a bit of a blank here, so I’m bending the rules a bit. I don’t know if this pick of mine actually fulfills the “always” part of today’s prompt. I’ve only seen it once, and it was only about a month ago. The film I’m talking about is Lemmy, a documentary on Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister. I really wasn’t very impressed with the movie, as it’s little more than two hours of people talking about how awesome Lemmy is. While this is of course a profound and undeniably true insight, there’s no need to spend that much time hammering it down.

It did take me back in time to 2000 when I went to my first real concert, though. Me and my circle of friends were all into hard rock and metal, and Motörhead was one of our big bands at the time. So when we found out that they were coming to the nearby city, we got tickets. Motörhead was the big draw for us, but it wasn’t just them. It was a big show which also featured Dio and Manowar.

Being my first concert, I of course had a great time. There is an undeniable energy present when experiencing music live. Granted, we were actually a bit disappointed with Motörhead. Compared to Dio and Manowar (neither which we were very familiar with at the time), they seemed a bit tired and uninspired. The other two bands more than made up for it, fortunately enough. And then there’s all the other fun stuff we saw at the show, such as the guy who had cigarette butts in his ears since he had forgotten to bring earplugs. Little things like that serve to anchor episodes to our memory bank, and there was plenty of it at that concert. Good times, great memories.

 
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Posted by on 15 July, 2011 in 50 Day Movie Challenge

 

50DMC Day 48 – Movie scene that most makes you wince

More info on The 50 Day Movie Challenge here and here.

The sheer brutality on display by Edward Norton in American History X‘s well-known curb stomp scene never fails to make me gasp. It’s sudden, it’s vicious, and such a cruel act of violence that you wonder who would think to do such a thing. It’s fuelled by hatred, not mere revenge for the attempted theft. It’s made all the more impactful by Norton’s unapologetic face as he’s arrested after the fact.

 
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Posted by on 14 July, 2011 in 50 Day Movie Challenge

 

50DMC Day 47 – An unfilmed book or idea that should be a film

More info on The 50 Day Movie Challenge here and here.

Bret Easton Ellis’ books have had mixed results when transferred to the world of cinema. The Informers, for example was a very forgettable film. And while I haven’t seen Lunar Park yet, according to most accounts it’s quite terrible. But you also have American Psycho, by far the most well-known of the lot. It’s a fine film with a star-making turn by Christian Bale in the lead, even if it pales in comparison to the brilliant novel. The real gem of Ellis adaptations is 2002’s The Rules of Attraction, however. Directed by Roger Avary, it takes great liberties with the novel’s tone and turns it into something superficially (that’s the keyword right there) resembling a normal college comedy, only much darker and scathing. It’s a highly enjoyable film, and one I’d urge anyone to check out. Underseen and underrated.

It’s also Ellis’ own favorite among the adaptations of his books, which is the reason why Roger Avary was originally set to direct the movie version of another Ellis novel called Glamorama. Sadly, this never materialized. It’s a shame, because it’s right up there with American Psycho as my favorite Ellis novel. A nasty but funny satire of the celebrity-obsession that was culture in the 1990s (and onwards), it follows male model Victor as he tries to get by in his career and personal life. The story eventually turns into something different and quite surreal, the details of which I shouldn’t spoil here. Glamorama is among the sharpest writing Ellis has produced, and I’d bet anything that Avary would have been able to turn it into something special as a movie. Ellis himself seems pessimistic about it ever being made. I hope he’s wrong.

Obviously there’s no videos to post of an unmade movie, so have a Rules of Attraction clip instead. At least it’ll let me include the lovely Shannyn Sossamon somehow in this 50 Day Movie Challenge.

 
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Posted by on 13 July, 2011 in 50 Day Movie Challenge

 

50DMC Day 46 – A movie you would like to remake

More info on The 50 Day Movie Challenge here and here.

Well, I don’t want to remake anything. I have little aspirations of a career in the movie-making business. Couldn’t this be “a movie you would like to see remade” instead? But fine. I’ll play by the rules. Remakes, of course, are often unnecessary and pointless cash-grabs, so there’s not a whole lot of films that I’d want remakes of anyway.

There is one thing I’ve always wanted to see though, so I’d remake Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Yes, Kubrick’s film is brilliant. Yes, I know Stephen King already supervised a readaptation of the book. That is irrelevant. I’d do a completely pointless shot-by-shot remake, casting whoever as Wendy and Danny. All I want is to see the role of Jack Torrance being tackled by Nicolas Cage. Sure, Jack Nicholson was great for the part, but nobody does crazy quite like Mr. Cage does. Seeing him lose his mind and go after his wife and son with an axe would be a delight.

 

BONUS VIDEO! Nicolas Cage losing his shit!

 
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Posted by on 12 July, 2011 in 50 Day Movie Challenge

 

50DMC Day 45 – A movie that turned you on

More info on The 50 Day Movie Challenge here and here.

Might as well go with an obvious pick here. Basic Instinct really shouldn’t be much more than a glorified and well-produced Skinemax thriller, but it actually is a quite solid film. And certainly quite sexy. Ignore the explicit scenes of love-making and uncrossings of legs. It’s all about the potent air of eroticism that surrounds Sharon Stone at every turn and the chemistry between her and Michael Douglas. That’s what makes this movie work its magic.

 
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Posted by on 11 July, 2011 in 50 Day Movie Challenge