Film Titles

The upcoming Oscar ceremony made us think about the role of languages in the movie world. Poor translators, I thought, they are always blamed for their mistakes or mistranslations by a bunch of picky smart asses like us ;). But when I had a closer look at some film title translations I must admit that some of them are highly unlucky indeed and that for reasons I cannot really explain.

One of the most famous cases of mistranslations of film titles into Polish is ‘Dirty Dancing’ being rendered as ‘Twirling (or spinning) Sex’. In the 80-ties this film was provocative and ‘immoral’ enough even without such a title and this title probably led to many parents not letting their teenage daughters watch it at all. Now, after years it is shown on TV under its original title but the first translation became almost mythical and a very frequent discussion topic.

Then I had this conversation with my German friends and while they were trying to translate a short description of a film from Polish (not knowing any) into German, we agreed that many German titles have an additional line ‘explaining’ the plot. The film we talked about was ‘View from the Top’, its Polish title could be retranslated into English as ‘School of Stewardesses’, so we started wondering what the German title was. I checked and it is ‘Flight Girls – Blondinen im Anflug (Arrival of the Blondes)’ which makes it a perfect example of two phenomena present in German film title translation industry. First of all, the above mentioned explanatory line, usually completely pointless and unnecessary, as in this case. Second of all, translating English titles into… English! What makes ‘Flight Girls’ a better “German” title than ‘View from the Top’? How is it more suitable for the German audience? These are questions I leave unanswered, maybe you have some ideas? I’d be glad to read your comments! Before that, enjoy some other English – English, oh pardon, German! translations:

Wild Hogs –> Born to Be Wild – saumäßig unterwegs
Cellular –>Final Call– Wenn er auflegt, muss sie sterben
American Ninja –>American Fighter
Black Eagle –> Red Eagle
Toy Soldiers –> Boy Soldiers
If These Walls Could Talk 2 –> Women Love Women
Bend It Like Beckham –> Kick It Like Beckham
Cradle 2 the Grave –> Born 2 die

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