Let the Right One In: The Subtitle Conspiracy


Sometimes things get lost in translation. This is just a fact of life. But one situation that shouldn’t see language getting mixed and matched is in the subtitling of foreign films for their American DVD release, especially after the film has already been subtitled for an American theatrical release. That said, it appears as if the folks at Magnolia Home Entertainment, the company distributing the Swedish vampire sensation Let the Right One In on DVD, have got all of their wires crossed.

As the folks at Icons of Fright (via CHUD) have pointed out, the subtitles for the film — which made my list of the Ten Best Films of 2008, Rob Hunter’s list of the Ten Best Foreign Films of 2008 and Robert Fure’s list of the Ten Best Horror Films of 2008 — have been changed in sometimes peculiar ways. Take for example the scene below, in which Haken (the caretaker of young vamp Eli) is attempting to murder a boy to harvest some blood for his pint-sized companion. The boy’s friends come looking for him and begin shouting silly things through the door in order to chide their friend out of the gym locker room. We’ll start with their original line:


Now, the scene from the DVD, in which the boys’ comments are changed significantly:


I’m no expert, but it would be hard for me to believe that the Swedish to English translations for both “you can jerk off” and “time to go” are that closely related. This brings up the more important, and even more perplexing question of why Magnolia would change the subtitles for such a scene. It is obvious that the change is deliberate, as the two quotes are completely different. So why make the change for a DVD release? Were they trying to bring the intensity of the language down a bit? Not likely. Both the DVD and the Blu-ray are rated R, just like the film’s theatrical cut. It makes absolutely no sense. In fact, it’s more than dumbed down, it is just plain stupid — a completely ridiculous bunch of bullhonkey. There, I said it. As much as I love Magnolia Pictures and their dedication to small genre films, not even I can deny that they’ve f*cked the pooch on this one.

What is particularly sad is that there are a lot of you out there who have discovered this film on DVD, as its theatrical run was very limited, so you may never see a cut with the proper subtitles. And I can say with absolute certainty that some of the changes outlined by Icons of Fright will dilute the intensity of the film a bit. So keep that in mind, but don’t let it stop you from seeing this film at all costs — it is still one of the best damn movies of last year.

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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