Why’d They Change the Name?

A few weeks ago, the husband and I saw a terrific movie, featuring the most compelling female character I’ve seen on the big screen in years.   Lisbeth Salander is a brilliant young hacker with a history of abuse and a definite edge.   On these shores, the film about her character is called The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  (In this country, Canada and the UK, look for the book with the same name, by the late Stieg Larsson.)  In  Sweden, where the film was made, and elsewhere in Europe, book and film appear under their original name:  Men Who Hate Women.

If you’ve seen the film, you know:  this title is a better fit.

So why the change?

Turns out, other countries freely rename our movies — just as we rename theirs.  And they don’t necessarily dumb them down or clean them up much at all.  Not when China can change Boogie Nights to “His Great Device Makes Him Famous.”

My favorites (among many) follow.

From Italy:

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind: “If You Leave Me, I Delete You”

From France:

The Matrix: “The Young People Who Traverse Dimensions While Wearing Sunglasses”

From China:

Risky Business: “Just Send Him To University Unqualified”

From Germany:

Annie Hall: “The Urban Neurotic”

From the Czech Republic:

Bad Santa: “Santa Is A Pervert”

And Mexico hits the big spoiler button with this:

Thelma and Louise: “An Unexpected End”

More delightful finds are available here.

An explanation for the name changes of American film titles is available on this page — including the reasoning behind the distribution of “Wall Street” as “Stock Exchange”, and “The Lovely Bones” as “Looking From Heaven”, overseas.  It comes down to what’s more familiar to the audience.  People are more likely to see a film if it references a concept they understand.  Wall Street?  If you live in Turkey, those are two nouns.  A stock market:  now that makes sense.

On the name change with the Swedish film, I sensed that we were dealing with something else.  This short and chilly article from the Telegraph offers insight.  People in Sweden, and many other European nations, would read a novel or a see a movie called Men Who Hate Women — but in English-speaking nations?  That’s too big a leap for us.

The names we give things say so much.  They say what we think, for better and for worse.  They say what we want, what we feel, how we’d like others to see us.  (While I’m on the subject:  why have so many American movies had the word “hard” in the title, or “dark”?  What’s our deal with -ing words — we’re forgetting Sarah Marshall, dancing in the dark, singing in the rain, waking the dead; can’t we just knock it off and take a nap?)

Like the names we give our children, names of films reveal our hopes and dreams.  At the same time, the dark inverse of every dream is right there.  What we hope reveals our fear, and both are possible.

But I still wish the translators of the Swedish works had trusted us with that original title.  To live in a world ignorant of fear, or pretending that what you fear does not exist:  this is how it feels to be truly imprisoned.

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7 responses to “Why’d They Change the Name?

  1. “Girl with the”/Men who hate is now available for “Watch Instantly” on Netflix so I started watching it while prepping for plum jelly and… HEY! I feel ROBBED! I thought Mikael was supposed to be handsome and young looking – instead we have a puffy, pock marked average middle age looking guy – and Erika? So not the “doing pretty dang well for her age” blond hottie I imagined – she looks like she’s 58 trying to look 40. And the whole Millennium crew – man, those folks need to use some sunscreen. (or, needed – too late now).

    • Ohhh, yes.

      Disappointed-reader syndrome. I have been there myself, many times. You’ll have a problem with The Girl Who Played With Fire, then (about to open here in the States).

      Here’s the thing, though: Lisbeth looks perfect, doesn’t she? 🙂

  2. I am through the first few chapters of “The Girl Who Played With Fire”, the second in the trilogy. The character of Lisbeth is so compelling to me. She holds herself apart from the world, but then she has this rage.

    She absolutely burns on the page.

    This is one of the few times a film has led me to a book. I’m not sure I can explain why.

  3. Dancewosleeping

    When I was in Israel, they showed “The Cannonball Run” on the kibbutz. Only they called it “The Race from Coast to Coast.” And I wish I could remember what American Gigalo became…I just remember laughing at the title (not to mention the mangled Hebrew subtitles!).

    • Dance, when I heard that Sasha Cohen spoke Hebrew through “Borat” — making it funnier to Israeli audiences — I only wanted to see it there.

      And I love the French title of “Jaws”: “The Teeth From the Sea”.

      • Dancewosleeping

        OMG yes Borat! Have you ever laughed so hard that you thought that were were seriously going to herniate yourself? Not just the Hebrew…I watched it with my Dad and he gave me a running commentary on the Yiddish and Polish as well…it was a whole subtext to the movie…like listening to the commentary on a DVD only in OTHER languages!
        I seriously heart me some Sasha Cohen.

  4. Great entry – I loved the link to Delirium Vault – awesome article. I’ve been struggling through this book since last summer – it’s been hard to get past the first 30-40 pages but I think I am finally getting into it around 90 pp or so.

    I think something is wrong with my brain – there are so many popular books that I just didn’t “get” when I read them (like Bridget Jones – one of the most unfunny things I read til I saw the movie – and then re-read and “got” it; or “Fear and Loathing” which seemed utterly confusing and nonsensical til I saw the movie – can I help if I have never experienced hallucinations?).

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