Interpreting in Lost in Translation / Dolmetschen in Lost in Translation

I mentioned in an earlier entry the translation of the director’s words in the film ‘Lost in Translation’. Actually, it was originally posted in the New York Times:

bq. With wholehearted feeling, slowly, look at the
camera, tenderly, and as if you are meeting old friends, say the
words. As if you are Bogie in “Casablanca,” saying, “Cheers to you
guys,” Suntory time!

Chris Durban in the ITI Bulletin (not online) quotes a later letter in the New York Times from Manako Ihaya, an ATA member in California, explained that even here something went wrong.

The famous line in Casablanca, ‘Here’s looking at you, kid’ is translated into Japanese as something like ‘Cheers to your eyes’ (Kimi no hitomi ni kanpai). This is regarded as a brilliant translation and it is this to which the director in ‘Lost in Translation’ refers. Bob was to imitate Bogart saying ‘Here’s looking at you, kid,’ not ‘Cheers to you guys’.

I think I should have guessed this.

Another thing: the meaning of the English is something like ‘I drink a toast to your looks’. So it sounds as if the Japanese really is a good translation. But the German version, equally often praised as brilliant and almost as well-known in Germany as ‘Dinner for one’ is ‘Schau mir in die Augen, Kleines’ (Look into my eyes, little one). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: condescending, self-centred, jokey, and completely lacking in romance. But famous.

A Google search will show thousands of uses of this hackneyed sentence. Here’s even a sermon (in German) based on this misconception. To which I can only say, ‘My brother is a hairy man, but I am a smooth man’.

7 thoughts on “Interpreting in Lost in Translation / Dolmetschen in Lost in Translation

  1. Lost in Translation is hopelessly overrated.

    If you wanna see a good film driected by Sofia Coppola, watch “The Virgin Suicides”.
    I am currently reading the book.

    Mon – key, Mon – key [12 monkeys], need I say more …I never watch the dubbed German version, only the English original. The few words I miss or don’t understand are by far preferable to bad translation and the loss of (intended) language ambiguities and puns.

  2. Margaret Marks has a fascinating entry explaining that the translation of the “Suntory scene” in Lost in Translation has a crucial error in the director’s first speech to Bill Murray: “As if you are Bogie in Casablanca, saying, ‘Cheers to…

  3. I didn’t like the film particularly either. I didn’t think it was racist, but I suspect if I’d remembered the male actor used to be in Saturday Night Live I would have seen him differently. Still, the film has some good non-Hollywood qualities.
    The interesting thing and why I mention it at all is because of the interpreting angle.

  4. So hold on, when I hear someone say “kimi no hitomi ni kanpai” in Japan (which I do occasionally, but only in a jokey context), they’re all quoting Casablanca?

  5. I went to see the movie with four friends with whom I had been on tour (we are musicians) in Japan. We laughed our heads off so much that a guy in front of us annoyedly asked whether we wouldn’t like to watch the DVD at home ;-) The movie is probably not nearly as funny as if you have not been to Japan for a while. I also would not have watched it at all if I had been zapping through the channels on TV, for the movie does not have a single interesting scene. That is what makes it so special: it actually develops a story and holds your interest without any special effects, denouement or pinnacle or whatever the technical term is.

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