24 March 2007

Subtitling subtext

The Times recently published an amusing piece (also reprinted in The Australian) about the limitations and shortcomings of subtitling. Times Online added its own comment under the headline "Here's Looking At You, Baby Goat". [Geddit?]

Like most movie buffs I've had some bad experiences with subtitles, sometimes because they've been badly translated, but more often because they're not sufficiently detailed to explain what's happening onscreen. Despite these moments I must confess that for me one of the advantages of watching DVDs is being able to opt for the "English for the hearing impaired" subtitles, even though my hearing isn't (I believe) too bad. Subtitles often clarify mumbled or heavily accented conversations (eg Walk the Line); occasionally they identify the background music, which is a real bonus for someone like me whose musical knowledge is relatively thin.

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