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Why do people get upset about dubbing?..

Discussion in 'Movies' started by todd s, Jun 6, 2005.

  1. todd s

    todd s Well-Known Member

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    I know I am going to get flammed for this. But, why do people get so upset when a foreign film gets dubbed? To be honest as long as the actors doing the dubbing are good and its timed right. I really don't see the problem with it. I also find I am reading the subtitles and not watching the scene as intently as I want to. That being said. I am against them releasing movies on dvd that if dubbed. Don't have the original voices with subtitles included.
     
  2. Mikah Cerucco

    Mikah Cerucco Well-Known Member

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    Tood, it's OK if you prefer dubbing. Your preferences don't have to jibe with anyone else's.

    Some people consider the audio of a movie an important part, just like the picture. So let's just break it down this way. How would you feel if someone took First Blood and replaced Sylvester Stallone with The Rock? This is what dubbing is like for many of us. You're taking part of an actor's package (his voice), and superimposing a completely unrelated "actor's" voice.

    If voices didn't matter, why would Hollywood spend the money to get Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Chris Rock, Cameron Diaz, etc. to do their animated movies. Give it some thought. Actors emote as much via their voices as their physical mannerisms.
     
  3. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Well-Known Member

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    Because it is so seldom done well. Both dubbing and subtitling are imperfect compromises that distributors make in order to deal with the fact that we don't all speak the same language, but there's a lot less that can go wrong with subtitling.

    (Although I've seen bad subtitling... Lord, have I seen it. When a local theater was running a weekly Midnight Ass-Kicking series with Hong Kong movies, there would be some horrible sub jobs that made me wonder if the people involved did not know either language.)
     
  4. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure that dubbing was far worse, but I'm not thrilled with what Criterion did for Hidden Fortress. They modernized the language just enough that it pulls me out of the movie in spots. I still prefer it to a dub.
     
  5. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    Now Das Boot is probably one of the exceptions if you just gotta have the dubbed version since they got the original actors to do the dubbing.
     
  6. andrew markworthy

    andrew markworthy Well-Known Member

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    I think there are some cases where dubbing is permissible:

    (1) Where the director and original actors are involved in the dubbing and some effort is taken over it. Patrick has mentioned Das Boot, and there's also Bergman's Cries and Whispers, which Bergman himself took great pains over.

    (2) When it gets people watching a great movie that they would avoid if they had to read subtitles (not everyone is a fast reader!). Some movies are very wordy, and in those instances you lose quite a great deal of the visual impact by constantly having to read the subtitles. Although the original language is always preferable, I think we can afford to be pragmatic over this one.
     
  7. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Well-Known Member

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    (Insert Bobbitt joke here...)
     
  8. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Well-Known Member

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    I prefer to listen to the original acting performance. It is what the actor performed in the first place, it is what the director intended.

    Course, there are films which are always "dubbed" because they didn't record dialog on the set. Spagetti Westerns and HK films come to mind. That's a whole different situation, tho.

    Jason
     
  9. glen_esq

    glen_esq Well-Known Member

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    Also the singing in most musicals.

    And, Fred and Ginger's tapping was dubbed after the fact. Hermes Pan did the 'dubbing' (tapping) for Ginger's dancing in the films he worked on with them.
     
  10. george kaplan

    george kaplan Well-Known Member

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    First of all, a hell of lot more dialog is dubbed than not dubbed. Of course, most of that is by the actors themselves in post-production, but it's still dubbed.

    Secondly, lots of films have at least some dubbing by persons not the original actor. This would include a large percentage of songs sung in movies, and lots of films with an actor dubbed by Paul Frees or some other voice talent.

    Then there are the spaghetti westerns. "That's a whole different situation, tho." No, not really. Lots of the actors played their role, and had someone else dub their voice. For the English version of Good, Bad & Ugly it was every single actor except the three leads (including a number of large speaking roles). For the Italian version, it was all 3 of the main leads. And for every other language version, it was all of the actors.

    English language films are almost always dubbed into other languages rather than subtitled. This includes everything from Citizen Kane to Revenge of the Sith, and no one ever gets up in arms about that. But when a foreign language film is dubbed into English, God help us.

    I understand the problem with poor dubbing, but the truth of the matter is that subtitling is also flawed, and it forces you to read the film. Now, it's true that while you're reading the subtitled film, you're hearing the original voices, and there's something to be said for that, though given that what you're hearing is in a language you don't understand, I do think it's somewhat overstated. But while you're hearing the original audio, you're not seeing the original video. First of all you've got subtitles blocking up part of the screen, and second, no matter how good you are at reading them, you're having to divert attention away from the picture.

    I have no problem with those who prefer subtitles to dubs, but I think that both are clearly compromises, and that the negative attitude towards those who watch dubbed versions is unwarranted. OAR is always better than MAR, and colorization is always an abomination, but for dubbing vs. subtitles, there's no clear cut, completely right way to watch a foreign language film, except to become proficient in that language.

    Plus, don't forget, foreign language films are no different than English language films. Some of the acting is great, and some is atrocious, and while a bad dub could really louse up a great acting performance, there are certainly good dubs in which the acting was improved over an original bad performance. [​IMG]
     
  11. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    Many film loving Germans don't know the real voices of famous actors/actresses like John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Audrey Hepburn, etc.
    What's worse: they often have different voices, and/or different sounding voices (timbre, way of speaking) in different films, especially when they're not too famous (yet)!


    Cees
     
  12. Kirk Tsai

    Kirk Tsai Well-Known Member

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    Just to add to what Cees wrote, Taiwan never did this either. The exception is animation, so theaters would play A Bug's Life in Chinese or English, Spirited Away in Chinese or Japanese. Also, I don't know if this is common, but in Taiwan, almost every pre-recorded television show had subtitles, so people are more used to seeing them there than in the U.S., and the opposition to reading during a film is non-existent compared to the US.
     
  13. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    [bites fist] Upset? You haven't seen me very upset![​IMG]

    [​IMG] The irony here is that American films are the most dubbed films in the world, my Sandra never heard Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks real voice until she came to England.

    If it's an anime and there's an option to switch to English I will, the lips rarely matches the original voices anyway.

    Most of the subtitled films I have in my collection are from Hong Kong and Japan and they only talk between action scenes so I'm fine with reading subs.[​IMG]
     
  14. george kaplan

    george kaplan Well-Known Member

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    I stand corrected in my overgeneralization about dubbing in other countries. :b Thanks, Cees and Kirk.
     
  15. Holadem

    Holadem Well-Known Member

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    Well George, I don't think your generalization is all that outrageous.

    I can tell you for fact that growing up in a french speaking country, everything was dubbed. From films to soaps to series. I expect the same for spanish speaking countries.

    I suspect the reason films are subtiltled rather than dubbed in the Netherlands and Germany is because their languages aren't much spoken anywhere else. I would expect the same of say... Greece and Italy. Dubbing will occur where the market warrants it.

    Now what's funny is that the french dubbing is done by the same group of french voice actors. They even have a union. I remember they were on strike at some point. Some of the voices are pretty famous, as the same film actor is often assigned one voice actor regardless of the role. The "voice" of Sylvester Stallone is pretty notorious I could recognize it anywhere. So is the voice of Columbo or even someone as recent as Will Smith (as in Fresh Prince of Bel Air).

    Better yet, since there are less voice actors than parts, hearing the same voice in different films is a very common occurence. More, hearing the same famous voice assigned to a different actors is also common. For example, Blake Carrington in the soap Dynasty (which was a phenomenon in my country when I was a child in the early 80s) has a very distinctive strong and commanding voice. I have heard that voice in countless films with similar characters. It can be as jarring as seing Agent Smith in Rivendell.

    Last, it does happen that the voice assigned to a actor changes with the role. I would swear that the guy who dubbed Will Smith in the Fresh Prince (sounding like a total clown) is different from the guy who plays him in his movies.

    --
    H
     
  16. Chris_Morris

    Chris_Morris Well-Known Member

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    I hate dubbing, but I don't get upset about it unless it is forced on me by being the only option. Choice is a good thing.
     
  17. Nils Luehrmann

    Nils Luehrmann Well-Known Member

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    I usually prefer subtitles, but as George said, some dubs actually improve upon a bad vocal performance by the original actor.

    I also agree with George that subtitles distract you from watching the visual performance which is often more important than what is actually being said. In fact, for me, reading subtitles also distracts me from listening to the dialogue and sound track.

    If I have the time, I try to watch foreign films twice. Once to focus on the subtitles and story. Then for the second viewing I turn the subtitles off and watch the film over again so that I can focus completely on the film itself.

    There are some excellent dubs though. Is there a thread or a site that lists such quality dubs? If not, that might be a worthwhile project for someone to start.
     
  18. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Well-Known Member

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    I suppose my own problems come from it this way:
    1) Because the dialogue has to last a particular length of time, what is spoken is often shortened or lengthened to meet what is needed. I'm sure we've all seen the parodied 'clear throat' sound on old martial arts films, as well as things that are short spoken words in their original language and translate into something very different in ours.

    2) The actors use their voices as much as their face, hands, body, and everything else in their job. For a good example, take any favorite scene on a DVD that you have and listen to choice signature tracks using the included foreign language track. Al Pacino or Jeff Goldblum just aren't 'Al Pacino' or 'Jeff Goldblum' without the way they talk, regardless of if you speak their language. I find Sophie Marceau and Chow Yun Fat both have very unique voices and speach patterns that I really enjoy.

    3) The dubs are rarely very good. By definition, the dubs are done for a restricted audience and rarely done with the talent level of the feature film. However, some people actively participate in their dubs, such as Jackie Chan, which can help in the translation.


    That said, there are problems with subtitles too. Subtitles are subject to very creative interpretation. Some are very funny, while some just fail to make important elements cross the culture barrier. Sometimes subtitles are truncated because they don't want to throw a lot of words in a short timespan. And, as you mentioned, it's not uncommon to be distracted reading the subtitles. As a repeat movie watcher, after my first one or two viewings, I get a good feel for the dialogue (as with english speaking movies) and start to hone in on the details in the movie itself that I intitally missed.

    Some dubs are good and well produced, the recent Akira should be mentioned. Some have been stocked with notable actors, such as Princess Mononoke, with both good and bad results. Some dubs become part and parcel with the appeal of the film, like the original english dub of Akira and countless martial arts films. In an ideal world, we'd have both options available to us at all times. But this is, sadly, a rarity.
     
  19. MikeEn

    MikeEn Well-Known Member

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    An example of fabulous dubbing is Gert Frobe's (replaced) voice in Goldfinger. I've seen the movie a dozen or so times and find it hard to believe it's dubbed. Obviously English -> English is easier than cross-language, but I also detect none of the incorrect aural ambiance that dubbed scenes often have.

    Gert to sound editor: "Do you expect me to talk?"
    Editor: "No, Mr. Frobe, I expect you to be dubbed!"
     
  20. Joe Karlosi

    Joe Karlosi Well-Known Member

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    Some very good points there, George. While preserving the original audio allows you to hear what was intended, as you're reading the subtitles (which block part of the picture, as you said) you're not really watching what was visually intended, either. And the more busy the dialogue, the more of the movie you're not really seeing.

    For me, sometimes I prefer subtitles, sometimes I prefer dubbing. It depends on the film.
     

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