Last week, I watched the Swedish independent horror film Let The Right One In. It’s an unusually smart little film, particularly for the horror genre these days, and it’s probably the best vampire film I’ve seen since Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos (1993). Or maybe Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987). Its approach to horror is to come at us through character rather than through gore or trickery (which is not to say it doesn’t have some of those too), and in ways it reminds me of the works of Val Lewton in the 1940s.
I recommend it highly. But that’s not the point of this entry.
No, the point of it is, turns out I was fortunate to see the movie on the original Swedish screener DVD. The US release of the film on DVD/Blu-Ray last week turns out to have been something even more scary than the movie itself: a dumbed down version of the movie itself.
A writer on Icons of Fright gave this account of a screening he held of the new DVD (after he’d already seen the film in its original form several times):
About 20 minutes into the screening, I was absolutely horrified.
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.
He goes on to show screen-grabs of scenes from both versions of the film — which if you haven’t seen it, you absolutely should not look at — but the difference between them is terrible. It’s not just a matter of the new subtitles seeming more on-the-nose or slightly missing the intent of the dialogue…in some cases it’s like the subtitler didn’t even realize what was going on in the scene. They also removed some presumably offensive content that actually wasn’t. It’s a butchery of a really fine film.
I had intended to warn you about it, lest you see the film in that bowdlerized form, and I was going to go looking for a torrent link to the original version so people who wanted to see the film the way it was intended could download a pirated file of it rather than supporting a company with so little respect for the film they’re selling. I was also going to find links where you could buy foreign DVDs that include the original English subs.
But as I sat down to write this, I revisited Icons of Fright to grab that quote above, and saw that there was an update. Seems there was such an outcry online against the new subtitles, the DVD company responsible is backpedaling and fixing the problem:
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.
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. (Source: The Digital Bits)
So, if you want to see this, make sure to find a copy with the English (Theatrical) subtitles. It may be that most of the discs out there for rental will remain the crappy versions, since those will have come from the first batch produced, so it might prove necessary to buy one of the corrected discs to see the movie the right way. It’s worth it, just make sure you buy the right one (which is probably not available just yet).
Kudos to the company for seeing the error of their ways (and a likely sales disaster, since the sort of folks who’d mostly be buying a film like this are exactly the sort of folks who’d be appalled at the damaged version).
Yet again we see the power of the net as a tool of the demos (in the original Greek sense) to effect change. The times, they are a changing, and in some ways for the better.