America has an original language

The rare cases in which one dared to try a synchronization (German example "Das Boot") failed. Viewers continued to prefer the original version. The fact that lip movements and language did not really match played an important but not the decisive role. The American (or English) viewer knows that people in Germany don't generally speak English. He makes use of this knowledge. A film that suggests something else appears to him for what it is, a fake.

In the awareness of having the world language of cinema at hand, linguistic authenticity has been combined with idiomatic wealth like nowhere else in American film. As far as the films are set in the USA - and most of them are anyway - the diversity of dialects and accents is just as present in them as the spectrum of ethnic characteristics. Our synchronizations plan that on a Hanoverian unit German. If a Hollywood film is set outside the USA, the main characters are usually Americans, which makes communication easier. It's like in real life: the secondary characters speak their own idiom with each other and the English that corresponds to their level of education with the protagonists. That only seems logical, since language is part of our reality. If I want to map these, one of their most important elements cannot simply be ignored. An exception is made in Hollywood for historical films. As with Shakespeare, the old Roman is allowed to speak English.

Unfortunately, German film is far from such a clarity of style. It is true that here, too, one works with the utmost precision on the level of the images, every detail is right, one spares no expense, only to destroy everything again in case of doubt with the language. In most German films, language is not a natural part of reality. And scandalously, everyone seems to have accepted it by now, the audience, the makers and even the critics. Their own productions are fatally consistent with what the dubbing of foreign films has shown us. German is spoken all over the world. In real life, only children believe that.

Admittedly, there is also a lot of dubbing in other formerly large film countries, in Italy, Spain, France (there of course only for the provinces). The fact that smaller countries such as Holland, Denmark, Sweden and so on have renounced it, that too was not concealed, above all for financial reasons. Subtitles are cheaper. This is how an economic weakness turns into a cultural strength. But there is also that: The German dubbed versions are just as rare in Switzerland as the Spanish versions are in the South American countries. The original versions are also preferred there.

Nothing is harder to get rid of than bad habits. Apparently the desire for comfort is stronger than that for stylistic veracity. Nevertheless, there are now cinemas in some major German cities that consistently show original versions. Unfortunately, unlike in Paris, these are usually not the best houses. It is to be hoped that at least that will slowly change. On television, of course, people will probably continue to trust our children's beliefs.

The author is a film and television producer ("Berlin Alexanderplatz", "Das Boot", "Schtonk", "The White Massai"), was TV director of the WDR from 1965 to 1979 and later president of the German Film Academy for a few years.

© SZ from 05/30/2011 / beitz