Category: Subtitling Written by: Daqeeq Date: 14 Jun 2021
Translators in cinema: not boring at all
Some might think that translators are boring people doing a boring job. First of all, they are not and their profession is too important to be uninteresting.
Besides, translators and interpreters have been entertaining the world as they were represented in movies. It is true that cinema makes things bigger than life, but it remains that the translation function has been there since the dawn of civilization and has always been associated with diplomatic interaction, which involves top state secrets, an intriguing element for moviemakers and movie theatergoers.
The 2005 blockbuster “the Interpreter,” by Sidney Pollack, starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, plays on this theme. Kidman plays the role of a UN interpreter who, while at the headquarters of the international organization, accidentally learns of a conspiracy, and her life is threatened as a result.
Another UN interpreter role is played by Audrey Hepburn in the 1963 “Charade”, where she embarks on a mission to unveil the secrets of a WWII clandestine operation that left her husband dead mysteriously.
Also in the realm of thrillers and secrets, “the Translators” (2019), by director Régis Roinsard, is about a team of translators who find out that someone has access to an important book they are translating and starts to publish its chapters online.
The movie “Arrival,” is different, but no less thrilling. It features a linguist who is recruited to communicate with aliens, applying her genius talent to interpret their language and save the world. One way or another, translators do that by facilitating communication between nations and boost international understanding.
Accurate interpretation saves lives for sure. This is what the movie “Desert Flower” wants its audience to believe as it re-creates the real story of Waris Dirie, a Somalian woman who needs interpretation while at the hospital, highlighting the consequences of a lack of this service and the absence of professional interpreters who can do the job properly.
A third aspect that is appealing to cinema audiences, yet very important for humanity, is translation as an inter-cultural understanding tool. The 2003 Oscar winner “Lost in Translation,” starring Bill Murray, stands out as an embodiment of this concept. It tells the story of an American actor who finds himself in dire need for a good translation service as he and a Japanese director find it difficult to communicate, due to cultural differences. The translator, who tries to keep the messages exchanged politely, adds more complications to the situation.
Another comedy that touches on the same theme is the 2004 “Spanglish”, a story of a housekeeper from Mexico involved in a love affair with her American employer, and language stands as a barrier between them.
The image of translators as depicted by Hollywood is mainly positive, or positively funny, but in general, it triggers thinking about the importance of this skill and humanity’s need for these professionals to make the world a better place.