20 February 2010

Translating Wallander (again)

I'm watching one of the BBC Wallanders, starring Kenneth Branagh. They are different from the Swedish ones, in ways I generally don't like. A lot of this is to do with the fact that they're in English, but there are other reasons.

First, the BBC versions have a big star as the lead, which means a lot of the attention is drawn to him. This is intensified by the style of cinematography. There is typically a shallow depth of field, with ostentatious focus-pulling, which means that often only one face is in focus, and of course that's usually Branagh/Wallander. There seems to be much greater use of close-up, again usually Branagh/Wallander. The effect is to characterise the programmes as being about him, his troubles and his development. Of course the Swedish versions did this too, but less so, I think.

All the characters have - inevitably - some kind of accent. Posh/common/regional for example. I'm sure the Swedish characters did too, but we didn't know what they were. We didn't have any presuppositions offered to us. So the characters were much blanker canvases.

In all, the effect is to make BBC Wallander much more lisible. I recognise that Swedish Wallander would have similar effects, but I'm talking about my response, not the response of a Swedish audience.

I could go into this further, but not now.

What has struck me now, is a scene where Wallander takes a phone call from the pathologist. She tells him she has sent him an email and so he looks at his inbox. Here's what he sees:

To make the obvious point, they're all in Swedish! So, all these people who talk to Wallander in English revert to Swedish when they send him an email. There's something wrong here, but I don't know exactly what.

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