I grew up with dubbed films. Up until I was 23 years old, I had never watched a film in its original language. Even when I started collecting DVDs and the original audio track was presently available to me, I preferred relying upon the Italian dubbing.
Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke, 2015)
It took my better half and a great stretch of my mind to finally abandon myself to the beauty of the language the film actually uses. I was afraid to let my eyes be distracted by the subtitles, because I was firmly convinced I would lose some important details.
Nonsense. Soon I discovered Italy misses so many films every year, and the only legal manner to watch them is buying DVDs from other countries. However, more important than my struggle is the preciousness of other languages.
Accents, dialects, entire cultural heritage enabled me to appreciate films and series on another level. Luckily enough, I missed The Wire when it was distributed in Italy, so when I eventually watched it I could lose myself in the peculiarities of Baltimore English.
Dubbing transplants a film right into my country soil, reducing foreign languages and cultures to a surrogate performance. Why should Toshiro Mifune speak perfectly Italian? This is a basic question I will never forget myself for not asking before.
Dubbing also impedes proper film criticism. It is hard to believe an Italian film critic who judges an actress or an actor performance without hearing her or his own true voice. There is a whole spectrum of emotions and signs that only voice can convey, and the best actresses and actors work on and with their voices precisely to make their characters alive.
The perfect example of this is Robin Williams. Despite the best efforts of Carlo Valli, watching Dead Poets Society dubbed in Italian is a miserable experience. Williams’s deep and warm voice is just as unique as the way he accompanies it with the calculated movements of his body.
Neither a powerful television nor superb speakers can replace the joy of watching a film in a movie theatre. Unfortunately, Italy is so proud of its dubbing, I can only dream of seeing more films screened in their original language.
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