My wife and I watched “The Lives of Others” this weekend, the Oscar winner for Best Foreign-Language Film. A truly excellent film, well deserving of its Oscar. We’re very grateful there is a place in Bangkok willing to show this type of fare. It used to be a very barren land for movie-lovers, but the situation has improved some over the years. However, to entice the Thais to go see these films, they almost always translate the title to reflect something sexy or violent.
Take “The Lives of Others.” The English title is an exact translation of the German: “Das Leben die Anderen.” The Thai title that they gave to it translates as “Love Crisis in Berlin.” I noted one Thai who got up and left about 30 minutes into it; I guess it was not as steamy as he had hoped. (Incidentally, I suspect a sex scene was cut, right after the party when he was opening his gifts. A lot of the more explicit sex gets cut here onscreen, but this particular venue is better than most about that. Was there a steamy sex scene at that point? They were about to get it on, then the film cut to the Stasi man up in the attic.)
There was a 1992 Italian film – a French-Italian production, actually, but in Italian and set in Italy – called “Flight of the Innocent.” It involved the Mafia kidnapping a child from a wealthy family. The Thais rendered the title in their language as “Little Boy Running from Hell.”
And then there was Martin Scorsese’s “The Age of Innocence.” The Thais seemed to pick up on the word “innocence” in the sense of “adolescence.” I can’t remember the exact title, but it was something about “Teenage Love,” which was totally ludicrous.
They do some title-changing in the West, too, I know. For instance, Wim Wenders’ “Der Himmel ueber Berlin” would best be translated as “Heaven over Berlin” instead of “Wings of Desire.” But they really go over the top here in Thailand.