Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Dub Didn't Sound Like the Hub...and There's the Rub

Earlier today, I stumbled across Los Infiltrados (The Departed) on my local Spanish channel. Virtually any film is going to lose punch when it's dubbed in a different language, even this high-octane Martin Scorsese nail-biter. Unavoidably out-of-sync dialogue is distracting, and, more importantly, the dubbers are merely reading words off a page, which sterilizes the characters' emotional nuances.

But these are inevitable drawbacks in bringing programming to those who can't speak English.

What really irked me about Los Infiltrados was that the dubbers made absolutely no attempt to record their Spanish dialogue in a Southie accent. The essence of the film lay in its working-class South Boston setting and overtones—Irish cops versus the Irish mafia, both of whom came out of the hardscrabble section of town. Yet all of that is lost for Spanish-speaking viewers who can only understand the Los Infiltrados version.

For example: when Costigan defends himself to Costello in the pub: "Frank, look at me. Look at me. I am not the fuckin' rat. Okay? I am not the fuckin' rat..." all you hear is the dubber's Spanish-accented Frank, mirada en mí. Míreme. No soy el fuckin' rata. ¿Autorización? No soy el fuckin' rata...

Had the dubber understood the craft of dubbing, he would have read Costigan's line as Frahnk, mirahdah ahn mí. Mírahme. No soy ahl fuckin' ratah. ¿Autahizaciahn? No soy ahl fuckin' ratah.

That would have captured the flavor of a Southie cop. Instead Costigan sounds like Zorro arguing over the check...

Admittedly, I watched very little of the Spanish channel's version of The Departed, but they did a such a poor job of capturing it's all-important Southie sentiment that I can only assume its non–English-speaking viewers thought the film was a Weekend at Bernie's–type resort flick set in Cancún. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if the film's main musical theme, the Dropkick Murphys' "I'm Shipping Up to Boston," had been re-cut by a mariachi band.

I can only shudder at the thought of how the film came off over Norwegian television...

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