Monday, July 03, 2006

Lost in translation

I've just been watching, for the umpteenth time, Ivan The Terrible, Part 1[^]. Excellent movie; I've been watching it ever since I first recorded it on Beta way back in 1983. I almost wore that tape out over 19 years until I discovered the DVD (yeah, I was as slow discovering DVD's as I was digital music).

The 1983 copy had subtitles created in house by SBS[^]. The DVD copy, released by Criterion[^] has, of course, a different translation. For the most part they're pretty much the same and these days, with neither the Beta tape nor the ability to play it back I'd be hard pressed to point to most phrases in the subtitles and say with any certainty that it differed from the one I used to see.

All but one that is. During the wedding early in the movie the guests frequently yell a word which is, as far as I can tell, 'boite' (sp)? The DVD translates this as 'kiss' in the imperative and Tsar Ivan and his bride Anastasia oblige by kissing.

The SBS translation had a much more puzzling but ultimately more satisfying translation. They translated it as 'the wine is bitter'. Had me scratching my head a bit until I found a friend with an eastern European background who was able to explain that they'd abbreviated it a trifle; what the guests were yelling was 'the wine is bitter; sweeten it with a kiss'. Aha, that made much more sense.

Somehow I like the SBS translation a lot more despite the initial puzzlement. You have no idea how tempted I was to yell it at Shelbys wedding last week; but no one else would have understood and one does not spoil another persons wedding.

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