Thursday, August 11, 2005


I have been wanting to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon since it first came out, and finally got the chance to watch it last night. It did live up to my expectations, except for one little thing. I never mind reading subtitles, but I have never encountered subtitles quite like these. The version of the movie I have is in English. The actors are speaking English, yet there are still subtitles at the bottom of the screen.

The best part, though, is that the subtitles are different from what the actors are saying. For example, here is one small bit that was spoken by the actors:

Woman: You scum. I told you that night to leave me alone
or you'll pay with your life.
Man: Pay with my life, I doubt that very much.

The "translation":

Woman: You dog. You will pay for your stubborness.
Man: That's what you think, old witch.

I have a natural obsession with words, and with word choice in movie scripts, books, etc., and I can't figure out for the life of me why (a) there are English subtitles for the English version, and (b) why the subtitles are different for every single line of the script. I also want to know very much if the writer intended the woman to call the man scum, or a dog. And did the writer really want the man to call the woman an old witch. I could go on and on about why this is so important, but I will spare you all. (And this is just two lines. Imagine my consternation as this continued throughout the entire movie!!)

My theories for the subtitle craziness:

  • One wordy interpreter who worked on the script, another straight-to-the-point interpreter on the subtitles. (The most likely, and most boring of my theories.)
  • An evil intern made it so that each copy of the movie has different subtitles so that when people try to discuss the movie it will be impossible for them to have a good conversation, eventually making everyone forget the movie so that said evil intern can remake it under a different title in 18 years.
  • (Drumroll, favorite theory has arrived.) I have unknowingly become fluent in Chinese and did not even realize that I was translating the script (much like Harry Potter when he first heard parseltongue...sorry, just finished the fifth book and have the Hogwarts details on the brain...) To test this theory, I will need someone to speak to me in Chinese to see if I can understand what they are saying.

I think it has become quite clear with those bullet-pointed thoughts that making theories is not my strong point. Please comment with any theories of your own. Or an actual explanation, if you must ruin the fun.

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