Leaps of language #14

I went to see Wings of Desire last night. It’s a multilingual experience in and of itself: the film speaks German, English, French and then some. Where I saw it it was shown with Swedish subtitles, quite good ones as far as I could tell, and underneath those, way down on the screen, much smaller and dimmer, there were Finnish subtitles. The Finnish subtitles usually appeared a good while after the Swedish ones, contained less information and, sometimes when there was too much said to fit all speakers in, chose a different person whose lines to translate. Add to this the fact that the sound in the theatre started out too low and that my knowledge of both German and French is rudimentary at best, anyway. Not that my Swedish is in any way fluent enough to read subtitles comfortably.

The film was good, and well suited to my current mood, and once people (after an hour) finally had all calmed down (I did have to turn my head to get the couple behind me to Shut Up, can you believe it), it was really nice to see it with a full house. Just don’t ask me to tell you my favourite lines – I have no idea. The only one that stuck was “Wenn das Kind ein Kind war…” I tried to listen as much as possible – easy with English, surprisingly not  impossible with German, even more surprisingly very difficult with French (which I’ve studied more than I have German). When I couldn’t hear or understand, I quickly checked the Swedish subtitles (bigger letters, higher up, available earlier) and if those whizzed by before I could make any sense of them, I turned my eyes lower to the Finnish ones, hoping they had bothered to translate the bit I’d missed.

A rather active sort of cinematic experience, rabbit ears turning and eyes leaping from language to language.

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