Do subtitles make you pay more attention to the film?

June 22, 2011

I watch 2046 tonight.  It absolutely GUTTED me.  Even more than In The Mood For Love did.

I had to stop everything I was doing and pay attention to the whole movie.  Not just because there were subtitles but because I really wanted to sink into the story.

But the subtitles also required that I not multitask during the film.

And I got to thinking about films with subtitles and how some people just won’t watch them.  And I wonder if, beyond the basic dislike of reading some people have, if it’s a non-starter because so many people don’t want to be forced into paying attention for that long.

I will admit to enjoying romance novels.  In no small part because I can skip pages at a time and still not lose the story.

And there are a lot of movies like that.  Movies were you don’t need to be paying attention because really there isn’t that much to pay attention TO.

Then there are films like Let the Right One In where I turned off the subtitles and just let the Swedish wash over me.  The films so so good and the acting so strong I knew exactly what was going on without the dialog.

Not all foreign language films need to be translated.  Somethings are best left in their original language … even if you have to pay more attention to them.  Maybe that’s a part of their gift.

All I know is that I loved the movie I watched tonight.  Even if I wished I understood Cantonese and Mandarin.



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