A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to see an advanced screening of the French film ‘Les Intouchables’, which is being released late October in Australia. Finally! It was a fantastic film with great acting, hilarious scripting, but above all, great subtitling!
Up until now, subtitles on French films have always distracted me from what’s really happening in the film. I would always question the translators choice of words, and think “why have the chosen that way to say that line, that’s not the same word at all!” Until I finally understood the art of subtitling…
What most people don’t understand, is that there are many rules to subtitling a film, and it is very tricky! Here are a few rules:
- every line must contain about 6 words
- every subtitle must contain no more than 2 lines
- leave no more than 2 seconds to read one subtitle, or no longer than the time is takes for the actor to say the line
- a word in italics is a title
- translated texts on screen are in capital letters
Not to mention that cultural ideas, jokes, slang, and the general sense of the sentence has to be translated in such a way which is quickly comprehendible to a person from another cultural background. It’s hard, I’ve tried it!
Now that you’ve read this, watch this:
– Notice how the actors generally say more words than the subtitles. But the meaning of the phrases are exactly the same. Also notice how they don’t translate putain…
I hope this gives you more appreciation for subtitling, as you can see, all of this counting makes it more sub-totaling!
Not to mention idiomatic expressions which don’t translate well. Like ‘oh my goodness!’ could be translated in French to ‘Ah, la vache!’ 😉