Let the Right One In Subtitle Cluster-F

[lastest updates at bottom of post]



over the past few days there has been quite the uproar over the american release of the stunningly beautiful vampire film let the right one in. the website iconsoffright.com first broke the story, comparing the pre-release screener subtitles of the film to the final us release subtitles. in their article, they compare the translation of several scenes, noting that in the american release, the subtitles have been shortened, dumbed down, or flat out changed from those originally screened theatrically and in pre-release versions of the dvd. as you can clearly see in the iconsoffright article, these changes could significantly alter your appreciation of the film .

what does this mean to you? well, i predict with the fuss being raised, the dvd’s distributor will eventually re-release the film with the original or comparable subtitles [edit: they are]. personally, i first saw the film with the original subtitles and am glad i did – i can’t say how much my impression of the film would be changed had i not, but i do know i prefer the subtitles i first saw to the ones on my recently purchased dvd. if you have yet to see the film and wish to have a similar experience, i know of three options.

  • watch the film dubbed (as the english voice actors use the original subtitle script, not the ‘dumbed down’ version)
  • rip your dvd and re-burn it with these subtitles (a rather complex and tedious solution, but should get the job done)
  • order a copy of the film from outside the united states

i’ve chosen to do the latter, and ordered a copy of the film from the canadian version of amazon. it is released by a different company and most sources seem to say that it features the original subtitles[edit: i’ve discovered the canadian version is the same as the american, so don’t order it]. regardless of how you see it, you need to see this film. so go do so. now. i’ll wait.

reboot baghead jason disapproves of your simplified subtitles!

update 3/24: new york magazine and mtv picked up the story

update 3/24: verified through jon (who had the film from netflix) that the netflix version has the ‘bad’ subtitles. at least the version he received. it would be strange for some netflix discs to differ, but i’ve seen several people claiming their netflix’d dvd had the theatrical subtitles, so that appears to be the case.

update 3/25: digital bits reports that magnolia has issued a statement saying from here forward they will release the dvd with the theatrical subtitles. however, they will NOT exchange them. i think this is a mistake on their part. punishing the people who ran out the moment the dvd was released to buy it (i.e., the biggest fans) is not particularly wise, especially when the number of people who would go to the trouble of sending in their dvds for an exchange would be relatively small. tex massacre at bloody-disgusting.com has some suggestions on how to best contact magnolia about this issue.

update 3/27: i am so jealous i didn’t think of writing this. although i’m not sure i could top the dumbed down subtitle for ‘the matrix.’

update 3/30: i received confirmation from the canadian distributor that their version is identical to the american release, at least in regards to subtitles. that sucks for me, as that means i will soon have in my possession two copies i won’t watch of a film i love. i also ran across the text below, which is magnolia’s internal response to the controversy. personally, i find their dismissal of the problem and bizarre attitude towards their biggest supporters puzzling. i agree a recall would be extreme, but it’s not unreasonable to expect a mail exchange when the fact that they’re making new dvds implies the originally purchased product is problematic.

Yes the bloggers are having a field day on this one. Normally they like to pick on the English Dub tracks, but in this case it’s the subtitles. Obviously online tend to get rowdy and bandwagon mentality without knowing all the details. The current subtitle track is not altering the context of the film at all, in fact it’s a more literal translation than any prior version of subtitles. It’s not a defective or faulty subtitle file. Just more literal and larger in size for the small screen. Both English and Spanish subtitle files were produced for this dvd release. Frankly it’s not all that uncommon to have the subs vary from prior releases, typically go unnoticed as subs are purely a translation of film dialogue. This wouldn’t have been a blip had it not been for one particular horror blog doing a side by side and claiming that they are wrong. They are not. We are not doing a recall or anything of that nature, again, these are not defective. Title came out two weeks ago and general public don’t notice and don’t care – bloggers are well known for jumping on something, making an issue of it and moving on. We have decided that based on the feedback that we will be making a running change, so that going forward (once inventories deplete), we will be making that subtitle version available. Options in set up will be; English Subtitles / English (theatrical) Subtitles / Spanish Subtitles”



update 4/03: i have not received any direct reply from magnolia pictures, despite polite requests for more information. i assume they’re going dark and hoping the whole thing blows over. i think it worth noting that the canadian distributor, mongrel media, replied to me within hours, answering every question i had in full. below is a quote from an email mongrel sent to a customer (see the original here).

I too, was pretty surprised by Magnolia’s reaction. I didn’t know that they were planning to issue a different version of subtitles on the DVD; they never disclosed that to us. In any event, we will release the new version in Canada as soon as it is available with the theatrical subtitles.

update 4/07: here’s some interesting articles i found on this topic:
NPR.com: A ‘Let The Right One In’ Subtitle Update, Or: What Blogs Do Well
Slashfilm.com: Magnolia Thinks Bloggers Should Chill Out About Let The Right One In’s Subtitles
Filmstalker.com: Let The Right One In subtitle farce grows
The Big Picture: Distributor Gets It Wrong With ‘Let the Right One In’ Subtitles Fiasco
Screenrant.com: The ‘Let The Right One In’ Subtitles Scandal

update 4/08: magnolia pictures just started a twitter account — @MagnoliaPics.

update 4/08: even the director of the film has weighed in on the american subtitles.

“It’s a pure turkey-translation. If you check out the net, people are furious about how shoddily it’s been done. It breaks my heart. But it’s out of my control. Unfortunately.”



update 4/11: netflix now has let the right one in available to watch instantly. watch it now. it even has the proper, theatrical subtitles… so you have no excuse to not go enjoy the best vampire movie evar. right now.

update 4/23: not much to report on this issue. no statements have been made. people have claimed to have called magnolia and been told they’re not sure when the new dvds will start showing up in stores. also second hand, i heard from an acquaintance that claims to know some magnolia employees that “they’re not happy about the situation either.” i’m not exactly sure what that means, but i can say that while i disagree strongly with the company’s decision to not offer exchanges, i can find little other fault with the company. they’ve released some great dvds lately (e.g., splinter and shuttle) and they give away free dvds by twitter regularly and seem to actually reply to questions and comments (except, i would guess, those related to the let the right one in subtitles). in any case, i’ll add more updates here if i hear anything else… and i’ll make a new post once the dvds with the theatrical subtitles start showing up in stores and online retailers.

update 8/04: i’ve seen dvd copies in stores with the theatrical subtitles. no blu-rays yet, but the uk version has been released and can be ordered online (it also features an english language commentary track no available elsewhere).

4 Responses to Let the Right One In Subtitle Cluster-F

  1. Zed Word says:

    This is something I’m always concerned about when watching dubbed and subtitled foreign films. It is always difficult to assess how accurate the translations are when translating across linguistic and cultural barriers. For example, I have a copy of Night of the Living Dorks (Die Nacht der lebenden Loser). The English subs are not the same as the dubs and the subs on the deleted/extended scenes are not the same as the subs in the film itself even when the extended scenes contain elements left in the film.

  2. MsBruun says:

    Hmm, as a Scandinavian living in UK, I can fully concur that translation ALWAYS leave a lot to be desired. However, there are good and bad translations and obviously this is all to do with the translators understanding of cultural differences, slang and sense of humour. When I recently watched a Danish film with English subtitles it became very clear to me how much is really left out. Unless you are watching a Sly or Arnie film with little dialogue it’s simply impossible to translate every word but it is also quite difficult to capture the ‘national’ sense of humour/atmosphere if you don’t know a little already. And colloquial slang is of course always a major obstacle.
    I am myself quite looking forward to the screen version of the The girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which should really have been ‘Men who hate women’ – typical example of ‘sexing up’ for a foreign audience. And lucky for me, I will be able to understand most of that!

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