Last night four of us went to see Låt den rätte komma in at Cape Town's favourite independent cinema, Labia. Although it was listed as "Let the right one in" we weren't worried, as using English titles are often used for foreign language films (think "Departures" or "3-Iron"). So big was the surprise when the movie was shown dubbed in English. Dubbed POORLY in English.
The movie was visually stunning, the music great, the acting good, but dammit, everytime someone started speaking it grated. And irritated. The accents were like An Attempt At An Interpretation Of What Swedish People Might Sound Like In English, But Only If The C-Grade Actors Surpressed The Actual Swedish Accent They Might Actually Have. There was no commitment by the voice-actors, or bond to what actually happened on screen.
Back home, I emailed the Labia and complained in the embarrasingly pompous way I reserve for record labels who don't want to / cannot make their music available to South Africans on eMusic due to antiquated distribution rights. In my email, I complained that nowhere did it say (on their website, emails, programme) that a dubbed version would be shown, and that it was the last thing I would expect from the Labia.
This morning the owner phoned me to apologise and explained that while he personally agrees, there is a teenage demographic of potential viewers who want to see the movie, but don't want to read, so the cinema experimented by showing the dubbed version, and apparently, ticket sales increased.
I protested, requesting that if that's the case, it should be made clear to anyone buying a ticket what version they would see, as I would not have gone to the cinema had I known it was dubbed.
The conversation lasted a few minutes and in the end we had a great discussion about movies in general, the movie itself, the issue of subbing and dubbing and what to do (my suggestion was show both with clear communication when which will be shown). We both agreed that for us the original language version with subtitles is preferable, but I can imagine for a business like Labia it is a constant challenge to keep both the Orange and Kloof street theatres open, and in this case they experimented given the nature of the movie and its possible attraction to emo teenagers, which subsequently attracted two complaints (I'm glad I was not alone).
We will probably go and watch the movie again when the Swedish version is shown, and I think it will be a totally different experience. The experience also made me realise I need to go watch movies at the Labia more often, otherwise it will become just another big budget, boring place. Receiving the call and having a great chat with someone clearly passionate about movies and building a more experimental movie culture was a pleasant surprise.
And let's face it, watching a movie accompanied by the best date balls in town, a glass of red wine, and ample leg room is worth something.