Monday, 13 October 2008

Films and TV: The Translation of Nanking

Chinese subtitle writers – dodgy characters

Whoever was in charge of the Chinese subtitles on my fake version of Nanking might be forgiven for the extra adjectives sneaked in throughout this stirring account of Japan’s 1937 occupation of China’s former capital. However, by the time the film reaches its emphatic conclusion the translator seems to have lost it altogether - new meaning is given to the idea of putting words in somebody’s mouth.

In one such example, the Chinese characters appearing at the top of the screen tell a very different story to the actor's reading of English diary excerpts written by an American missionary stationed in Nanking at the time. His description of a Japanese man’s request to retract statements about what he saw of the atrocities is “translated” as the Japanese government’s denial of any wrongdoing in Nanking. He ends by saying: “[the Japanese man] intimated to me that it would be best if I did so [retract the statements].” Anyone relying on the Mandarin subtitles would have taken the kind-hearted missionary to have meant: “对我而言, 日本就是狗东西- If you ask me, Japan is a country of dogs”.

If the subtitling on our beloved pirate DVDs cannot be trusted, just what are we to believe in China?

1 comment:

Daria said...

Keep up the good work.