Saturday, January 24, 2009


Most Italian TV actors are total crap. I mean really crap. Just look at any of the National TV productions (RAI fiction) to see that. The good actors and actresses are all in theatre presumably. One or two of the older males are passable, experience I suppose does count for something, but the females seem to keep their acting talents in their bras and the males that aren’t any good just seem to depend on having the right bodily characteristics to get on TV - the right shaped face, the hard macho look though with just a touch of tenderness and of course the trendy leather jacket. Casting these guys must be a nightmare (in fact casting is another field where the Italian do not excel). The Italian film dubbers though have to be the best in the world. These guys are real professionals and are truly full of acting talent. Of course for a non bi-lingual and also for a bi-lingual the first time you get to see a dubbed film it’s odd. The movements of the mouth don’t match up to the words obviously but after you get past the initial shock of knowing that Columbo or Lynette Scavo are speaking in English but hearing them speak in Italian, if the dubbing is well done you really don’t notice. Actually when you watch TV, if you catch yourself you will notice that you don’t really spend much time watching the mouth, very little time actually. You watch the body movements, the scenery, anything but the mouth, as you do in real life. Even with close-ups you watch the face not specifically the mouth. If the dialogue and the intonation match the body language of the actors you would never notice. Like everyone else, I watch entire films which have been dubbed without noticing anything untoward or having my watching pleasure in any way affected by dubbing, quite the contrary. Sure if you deliberately look at the mouths you will notice but the dubbers are so good at their job and the time match so good that you can only really see it in close-ups anyway. Some films even improve with dubbing. Forrest Gump for example which I have seen in both English and Italian is much much better in Italian. The dubbers put something of their own in the interpretation (the sign of a true professional imo) and there really is no comparison. Desperate housewives is another which has been seriously improved by dubbing. It is a pity though that the dubbers are not given any recognition, usually quite the contrary. In fact one unfortunate habit with films at Christmas is for big films to use famous actors as dubbers and push that as a selling point for the film. This must really piss the professional dubbers off especially as without exception the actors are about as good at dubbing as they are at acting. It’s a real pity because of course bad acting can also be improved by good dubbing. if the Italian dubbers dubbed the Italian actors maybe (but probably not) the films might become watchable.

A test of dubbing ability comes when you watch stuff in both languages on the internet. I sometimes don’t notice in which language I am watching, they are that good. A nice byproduct is of course you can watch films from all countries without any difference in quality and also you don’t have to hear the American accent all the time which though great for Americans of course, gets a bit tiring after a while for my British ears as it would for Americans to have their films in English. Italians have the best of both worlds because it means that any film, in any language will always be dubbed into Italian with the same quality. I watched midsomer murders in Italian which was interesting. It took me about five minutes to forget that voice that I have associated with the face for so many years but the dubbers did an excellent job. Good dubbing really does make a difference. One of my favourite films is Dersu uzala by Kurosawa which I have seen in the original with subtitles, dubbed into Italian and dubbed into English. The English dubbing was good with regard to following body language but completely out with regard to the timbre of the voices, the intonation and so on. It was difficult to watch. You KNEW it was dubbed for the whole length of the film and it was so difficult to get right into the film. Probably if they had used professional British actors (certainly the best in the world) for the dubbing the results would have been different.

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