It seems that there’s been quite a buzz through the online community of DVD and Blu-ray fans over the English subtitles used for the home release of the popular Swedish vampire flick, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. It seems the film’s distributor, MAGNET, chose to use a different translation other than the one which appeared in the popular theatrical release. According to Icons Of Fright:
The subtitles had been drastically changed since the last time I saw it, and dare I say… had been completely dumbed down? Sure, the basic gist of what the characters were saying was kind of there, but missing completely was the dark humor, subtleties and character nuances which made the movie so powerful and a favorite amongst audiences last year. I tried to carry on and ignore it, hoping that only a few of the translations were off… but… I was wrong. Just about the intent of every single line of dialogue was completely off and ruined the movie.
The good news is that the folks over at The Digital Bits contacted Magnet about the problem and received this response:
“We’ve been made aware that there are several fans that don’t like the version of the subtitles on the DVD/BR. We had an alternate translation that we went with. Obviously a lot of fans thought we should have stuck with the original theatrical version. We are listening to the fans feedback, and going forward we will be manufacturing the discs with the subtitles from the theatrical version.”
The bad news is, when asked about exchanges for those, like myself, who have already purchased this “inferior” version of the film, Magnet’s response was:
“There are no exchanges. We are going to make an alternate version available however. For those that wish to purchase a version with the theatrical subtitles, it will be called out in the tech specs box at the back/bottom of the package where it will list SUBTITLES: ENGLISH (Theatrical), SPANISH.”
This is, to say the least, VERY unfortunate. You see, the film’s biggest fans are the very ones who raced out and purchased it right away. They are also the ones who made Magnet aware of the problem in the first place. All of us are thrilled beyond words that Magnet chose to distribute this film in the States AND release it not just on DVD but on Blu-ray as well. But Magnet made a very poor choice in changing the subtitles and, as is shown below, the difference is truly dramatic. They should take the hit for this poor decision and not lay it on the film’s biggest supporters. I have a feeling they’ll be getting a lot of angry letters these next few weeks.
Here are some examples of the difference in tone from one set of subs to the next. The following screen captures are courtesy of Icons Of Fright:
Here is a scene from early in the film. These subs are from the theatrical release and clearly show the proper tone and dark humor inherent in the film and in the exchange between these two main characters:
Now here is the new Magnet DVD/Blu-ray translation of that same exchange:
Wow. So much for capturing nuance!
And here’s an example of dumbing down the dialogue by choosing to illustrate something painfully obvious by adding dialogue that was not actually in the film!
To see more startling examples, please visit Icons Of Fright. As you’ll see, each example is more offensive than the last. One wonders what the thought process was behind this. Was it the belief that Americans would be too stupid to get the humor and subtleties? Or maybe it was a money issue as in not wanting to pay for rights to the original translation, as the folks over at Icons Of Fright suggest? The most likely reason to me is simply that the folks at Magnet know that many Americans still don’t like to read subtitles therefore they were simply “reducing” the number of subtitles that needed to be read! And like so many producers I’ve run into and worked with, they don’t seem to understand that it’s not just about getting “information” across to an audience that is important. It is, in fact, the subtleties, nuances and poetry of a piece that make it a great film instead of one that’s just okay. That’s what storytelling is!
And this last reason also seems quite probable as it should be noted that the DVD/Blu-ray offers the English dubbed version of the film as the play default. You actually have to return to the menu and manually select the original Swedish track in order to see the film in its original language. Not a release tailored to the foreign film-lover, to say the least.
Oddly enough, the subtitle issue is, in some ways, a moot point for me as I actually speak Swedish and don’t need them. But part of the joy of owning a film is watching it with your friends and turning new people on to it. Well, I had a movie night set up for this very reason. And I was really looking forward to seeing the film again, exposing my friends to it, and engaging in whatever conversation followed. But I’m canceling that little event until the “proper” version is released. AND I can trade in my old copy for the new one. Because really Magnet, do you want me to hold off purchasing any other titles until I know for sure that what I’m purchasing is, in fact, what I think I’m purchasing? However, if I know you stand behind your products AND your customers, then I can buy with confidence. I do hope you change your mind and do the right thing.
Addendum: e-mail Magnet and ask them to reconsider their exchange policy on LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. Their e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org