Monday, June 4, 2012

Watching the Matrix in French

La Matrice
Used under fair use
My wife and daughter were in Nancy while I had to stay home and try to finish the next chapter of my book. It was a long, painful weekend and I decided to destress by rewatching The Matrix.

I first watched Matrice (Matrix) in English with French subtitles to improve my French and noticed that the subtitles were, well, wrong. They were shorter and didn't match what I would have said in French.

Then I decided to watch in again in French, but I didn't know how to shut off the subtitles and discovered that the dubbed French (dubbed in Quebec, according to the DVD) didn't match the French subtitles, but they did match closer to what I would have expected to say (e.g., simpler French). Sometimes, though, the French wasn't simpler (je ne peux pas faire ├ža versus j'y arriveria jamais) and sometimes the subtitles didn't translate the English word (merde, French for "shit", was omitted from the subtitles but not in the dubbing).

It was also interesting in the interrogation scene where Neo is demanding his phone call. To the American audience, it's perfectly natural that he's asserting his rights. Unfortunately, in the subtitles Neo kept demanding telephoner,  saying, more or less "I want a telephone" instead of "I want my phone call". It seems a subtle change, but one which seemed like it could make Neo sound like a whining bitch if you didn't know he had a right to a telephone. Or maybe everyone outside the US knows that the US legal system guarantees this right? I suspect that might be the case given how pervasive US media is.

Interesting, in the dubbing for that scene Neo was saying he wanted his avocat (lawyer) of a telephone. That seems like it would translate universally, so I'm surprised it wasn't used for the subtitles.

Later, my wife informed me that she had the same problem when she tried to learn English by watching English movies with English subtitles: the subtitles can't match because they have to be shorted to give people time to read them (note: trying to brush up on a language by reading foreign subtitles sucks because you get caught up in the film and forget to read the subtitles).

It's interesting because I'm so used to "foreign" films being dubbed, but now I have to realize that this is a foreign film. I don't live in the US any more and realizing it was foreign to me was sort of unsettling, like a splinter in the mind.