5 May 1999 | SMK-4
Beware of the subtitles
This is yet another of those cases where Anglosaxon audiences might be tempted to think that it reenforces their prejudice that German humour is a no-show.
The problem can be described in one word: subtitles. I (a native German speaker) watched the UK release which is the original German version with English subtitles. The dialogue of this film is very funny and sharp; it is quite different from contemporary funny English dialogue which usually goes for funny one-liners, it has more in common with the humour you find in Oscar Wilde, for example in The Importance of Being Earnest. In other words, the characters are constantly trying to (literally) outwit each other whilst keeping the conversation afloat. This kind of dialogue is quite fashionable in certain parts of German culture, but at least in Britain it has become fairly rare. Consequently, the translators had a difficult job on their hands.
Occasionally my eyes wandered towards the subtitles to see what the translators did with the latest banter - and I was appalled with what I found. Yes, the translation was factually accurate, i.e. the content of what was said was accurately translated, but all the wit, the sharpness, the humour had gone. As already mentioned, this was a difficult translation job, but the translators did not try hard enough.