The subtitling of films is one of those arts that is usually evident only when it is done very poorly. Take, for example, the longstanding cinematic joke in which a character in a foreign film--in most of the iterations of the gag I recall it's Japanese--goes on and on, urgently making a complicated point, and at the end it's translated in a single monosyllabic subtitle (e.g., "yes").

Today, there's news of a real-life variation on the joke, and it's a distressing one. Let the Right One In, the stylish, moody vampire film by Swedish director Tomas Alfredson, was released on American DVD by Magnolia Home Entertainment a couple of weeks ago with different subtitling than was seen in theaters and on early screeners. I haven't seen the new version, but the site Icons of Fright has done a scene-by-scene comparison and it's truly lousy: revealing dialogue that's flattened into inert, literal prose; awkward, non-colloquial translations; and, in one case, a dying character who's invocation of another character's name (which is perfectly comprehensible to viewers, being the same in both languages) is rendered incorrectly, and idiotically, as "I'm trapped." 

The reason for the new subtitling isn't clear, though Icons surmises that Magnolia may not have wanted to pay the original subtitler and went with a cheaper option. If so, it was an appalling mistake. Let the Right One In is well worth seeing, but anyone who intends to do so should seek out a version other than the Magnolia DVD release.

(via Vulture)

--Christopher Orr