Subtitles Redux

I wouldn’t want you to imagine that I never watch films or television programmes broadcast in my mother tongue – though I do have a rather serious BBC4 habit.  In fact, if I am honest with myself – and by extension, you – I do seem more willing to give something a “go” if it is not in English.  This seems particularly true of detective drama or police procedurals – hence, my recent viewing in this genre has largely comprised Wallander in Swedish, Montalbano in Italian and, most recently, The Killing in Danish.

If we ignore the arena of sporting endeavour (something which I have done pretty successfully over the years) then the most famous Dane in this country would probably (just feel that craft – even the adverbs refer back to the Danes) be diminutive funster Sandi Toksvig.  As a country, Denmark is best known for lager, pastries and bacon – all widely considered to be a sources of pleasure.   It is thus, perhaps, curious that so much of the output of Denmark’s entertainment industry is so depressing (née harrowing).  BBC4 transmits The Killing as a double bill on a Saturday night – and I must wonder if hospitals have seen a spike in attempts at self-immolation as a result.  I can only manage one at a time, and then require several days to recover – don’t get me wrong, it is quite brilliant but my joie de vivre can only take so much.  I have largely avoided Danish cinema as I doubt my state of mind is up to it (the trailers are bad enough) – though I have seen Italian for Beginners which I think would count as a farce by Danish standards (and merely mildly depressing by those of a sunnier nation).  Shakespeare is oft cited as a genius, and I do wonder if Hamlet is a more realistic take on the Danish psyche than commonly realised.

But, all of this discussion of the Norfolk of the Baltic is by the bye.  Earlier in the week I was watching the French comedy, loosely translated for the anglophone viewer as, “My Best Friend”.  This flick has a number of themes – friendship, antiques, taxis and quiz shows might all be considered (though I refer you to previous blogs for the difference between your host and a film critic).  In one scene, one of the characters lists quiz show hosts – and these are duly transcribed for the linguistically challenged.  To my delight, the subtitles listed Robert Robinson as one of these hosts – such was my excitement that I missed the original French.  This leaves three rather intriguing possibilities:

  1. The subtitles were written by a Brit, older than 30, and who can remember Mr Robinson’s ouevre.  Presumably, this suggests that the UK distributor was not targeting the youth market.
  2. The subtitles were written, as usual, by a Yank – but that Ask the Family was much bigger in the US than I had realised.
  3. The original (and best) host of Brain of Britain is famous in la belle France (Radio 4 leaking across la Manche?) – and so he should be.

So, the question (for Mother and Younger Child only) is – which is true?  Or is there a fourth possibility that I have failed to consider?

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