Sep 5, 2008

Reflective "Pool"

If you'll pardon a non-theatrical recommendation, I just saw Chris Smith's film The Pool, and found it quietly, oddly moving.

Smith was present after tonight's showing to talk about the film, and what intrigued me was that he made such a beautiful film in a language he doesn't speak or write. One of the actors told him he'll never know how good the dialogue sounds to a Hindi-speaking ear (and apparently it does, for which credit must go to Smith's translators and actors). I know Sergio Leone directed reams of films in English without speaking it, and Truffaut muddled through Fahrenheit 451 without mastering English (and it shows). And obviously, works in all media lose a lot in translation to other languages--I've recently been looking at various version of Don Quixote for a project I'm working on, and it's instructive to note how much wordplay and richness and contrast gets lost (apparently, as I don't read very good Spanish) or must be rethought or, worst of all, explained in footnotes. And I know that opera directors (and even opera composers and singers) regularly direct in languages they have no familiarity with. But I guess I've never thought through this odd situation: a work being created in its original form in a language its auteur doesn't understand.

The obvious insight here is that a film's "language" isn't, or isn't only, the stuff characters say. But that's a big part of it, isn't it? I found the film richly rewarding, and the performances matter-of-factly droll and often funny, but I'd love to read what an Indian critic might say.

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