AROUND THE WORLD IN 7 MOVIES
by Federica Fugazzotto
Discovering some of the most far-fetched translations of movie titles.
When it comes to inappropriate translations of movie titles, Italians often say they hold the World record. In fact, we can easily find several examples of inappropriate Italian versions of very well-chosen English titles, but we’re definitely not alone in this unfortunate chart. Let’s have a look around and see what happens in other countries.
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Those of you (hopefully ALL of you!) who have seen this movie from Mel Stuart, starring Gene Wilder and inspired by the famous children’s book written by Roald Dahl, will probably remember stocky Augustus Gloop falling into a chocolate lake. Apparently, this scene impressed quite a bit the person who, in Denmark, was in charge of translating the title: as a matter of fact, over there the movie came out as Drengen, der druknede i chokoladesovsen, meaning The kid who drowned in a chocolate lake.
The Full Monty
Chinese are notorious for creative translations of movie titles, that often tend to reinterpret the plot in some way. One of the most striking examples is this comedy from Peter Cattaneo, that came out with a title meaning, more or less, Six naked pigs. That’s what is called "ability to sinthetize".
Once Upon a Time in the West
A milestone of cinematography, this movie from Sergio Leone is known in Sweden with a title that might make you think more to a Marvel production than to a Western movie. Please be prepared to watch the amazing adventures of Harmonica: the Avenger (Harmonica - En hämnare).
Some Like It Hot
Billy Wilder’s masterpiece starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon is about the story of two broke musicians who happen to witness a massacre and are forced to start dressing up as women to avoid the ruthless criminals responsible of that crime. The Spanish title Con faldas y a lo loco – something like Foolishness in a skirt – is at least a short summary of the plot.
But let’s go back to Italy now: as mentioned, there are countless examples of questionable versions of English titles turned into Italian, but in the end I chose two beautiful movies crying out for revenge.
Walk the Line
This movie, telling the story of Johnny Cash’s rise to fame as a musician as well as that of his strong and painful love story with his wife-to-be June Carter, owes its title to a popular song from Cash himself. In Italy, though, it came out as Quando l’amore brucia l’anima (When love burns your soul), probably more suitable to a tear-jerker movie rather than to this one.
The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
When it comes to title translation, it is nearly impossible not to mention this movie. It’s the story of Joel and Clementine, a couple that broke up after two years of a troubled relationship and decide to cancel each other’s memories thanks to the help of a specialized clinic. It’s a powerful movie that owes its title to a line of Alexandre Pope’s poem Eloisa to Abelard, also mentioned in the movie. The Italian title Se mi lasci ti cancello (If you leave me I’ll delete you) not only wipes out an important reference but it also depreciates ruthlessly the main topic of the story.
We could keep going for ages, but what about you? Do you know any of these badly-translated titles? Feel free to leave us your comments under this post!
Federica Fugazzotto - Editorial translator from English into Italian and full-time nerd. She loves stories more than anything else on Earth but does not mind a glass of good red wine.
"A different language is a different vision of life." Federico Fellini