It’s no secret that movies made in Hollywood often find themselves getting played throughout the rest of the world. After all, Hollywood blockbusters aren’t just known in America but tend to be worldwide sensations. Pay close attention to how they translate in terms of their titles, however, and it becomes clear that there’s no such thing as a universal way to look at some of these films.
Take the new crime drama American Hustle, for example. The first word in the title can clearly be easily translated to a multitude of other languages, but what about the second? “Hustle” is more of a slang term than anything else, which is why in France, the movie is being called American Bluff. It doesn’t end there, though. In Spain, the film is referred to as The Great American Scam. Confused yet?
American Hustle is far from being the only film to ever be affected by translation and cultural issues.
Cloud with a Chance of Meatballs
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, one of the most popular animated films in the past decade, didn’t exactly translate quite right when brought to Israel. Because the term “meatball” isn’t exactly well known in Israel, the title was changed to It’s Raining Falafel. How these two titles relate is beyond anyone’s guess, but this is just another example of cultural differences that can change the way entertainment is perceived around the world.
If there’s one country that is known for having some interesting movie title translations, it’s Norway. Norwegian to English translation is known to be rather difficult, and the same can be said for the opposite approach.
The film Enchanted, for example, translates to Eventyr i New York in Norwegian, which literally means Fairy Tale in New York in English. In the same vein, Gone With the Wind translates to Taken by the Wind, and Airplane! becomes Help, We’re Flying!
Poor Translations & a Studio's Bottom Line
What often plays into these crazy translations, yet gets overlooked, is the fact that money is typically the bottom line for studios. If the film isn’t going to do well in a particular part of the world simply based upon its name, things need to change. In the case of Israel’s adaption of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, “falafel” is a far better-known term than “meatball,” so why wouldn’t a studio take advantage of this opportunity? Still, there’s something to be said for authenticity, and such a name change does affect how a film is viewed in some ways.
If anything is getting lost in translation with film titles, it’s accuracy. The Great American Scam really doesn’t speak for what American Hustle is actually about. Still, sometimes there’s no choice but to switch things up in order to appeal to a specific audience. With a good language translation agency handling the job, however, things often start making quite a bit more sense.