Sunday, February 26, 2006

Pride and Prejudice in the Promised Land

Deborah Moggach comments on screening Pride And Prejudice in Nazareth:
Pride and Prejudice was to be the first western film to be shown there, the reckoning being that even the most radical Muslim could hardly be offended by Austen.

As the audience filed in I was interviewed by a journalist. "Why did you call it Pride and Prejudice?" I explained that it wasn't my idea. The cinema was packed. As I watched the film, I wondered how much in common there was, in fact, between the rigid rituals and arranged marriages of Georgian England and the Arab society of Nazareth. People certainly were laughing at the jokes - more so than in Britain because even the inaudible conversations were subtitled.

At the end the audience applauded. Austen seemed to have gone down well. The trouble is, now they must think everyone in England lives in vast houses and drives around in carriages. Even more puzzlingly, as the audience filed out, I passed two boys. One said to the other: "If you read more books you wouldn't cry so much." On the flight home I worried over this. Did he mean, If you were familiar with Jane Austen you'd know it all ends happily?
That point about even the inaudible conversations were subtitled is interesting. For those who are losing their hearing, when watching a film it often becomes difficult to distinguish between dialogue that is important and that which is just background chit-chat. It's not just difficult it's also frustrating. Surely, subtitling background conversations that don't further the plot just clutters up valuable subtitle space that should be used for dialogue that furthers the plot. So, should subtitling cover everything or should it be restricted to important dialogue (however you define "important")?

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