June 2, 2007

The World is (incredibly) Flat

Last night Kevin and I were flipping channels in desperate search of some entertainment. Unfortunately, as I’ve already documented on this blog, Germany is a TV wasteland. While I can occasionally find interesting reality television programs, the Germans’ taste in movies is unbelievably awful. Although, it’s very awfulness can occasionally be entertaining.

Recently, Kevin and I stumbled upon such prime-time offerings as The Scarlet Buckaneer (1978), (“A pirate and a hot-tempered noblewoman join forces to protect Jamaica from a tyrant”), and Krull (1983), (“A prince and a fellowship of companions set out to rescue his bride from a fortress of alien invaders who have arrived on their home planet.”) The Scarlet Buckaneer, was pretty campy, although I’m sure it’s one of the movies James Earl Jones leaves off his resumé.

But Krull was completely unwatchable. “It may actually be the worst movie of all time,” says Kevin. And he would know. His favorite childhood movie was The Last Starfighter (1984). (“A video-gaming boy, seemingly doomed to stay at his trailer park home all his life, finds himself recruited as a gunner for an alien defense force.”) Our theories are that either Germans can’t tell the difference between good and bad movies or that German television stations are just so cheap they will only buy the movies with the lowest licensing fees – as in “three easy installments of $19.95.”

Anyway, the one channel that regularly shows good movies is Duna, the Hungarian channel. They’ve recently aired Legally Blond, Chocolat, Stripes, and Anne of Avonlea. Well, at least they are good by comparison. Unfortunately, they’re all dubbed into Magyar, the Hungarian language, and Magyar is one of the rare languages spoken in Europe that doesn’t belong to the Indo-European language group. We can’t recognize a single word, but that doesn’t stop us from watching it. Watching good movies in Magyar is better than watching bad movies in German.

So last night Duna was showing some Bollywood movie about a beautiful young Indian woman who falls in love with a dashing British man, while her match-maker mother is trying to arrange a match with an obsequious bore. Although we couldn’t understand a single word, Kevin and I were really enjoying this light-hearted comedy of errors, and we began discussing how Indian culture, with its strict moral code and caste system, is one of the few modern countries where you could still have a story along the lines of a Jane Austen novel.

But after we’d been watching the movie for half an hour or so, we realized that the Bollywood movie actual was a Jane Austen novel – the 2004 hit, Bride & Prejudice -- just updated for modern audiences. This could not have been better luck for us, since Pride & Prejudice (1995) is one of our favorite movies of all time. In fact, Kevin and I have seen it so many times that we can recite the entire script backwards and forwards. What a crazy world it is to be sitting in Germany, watching an Indian remake of a British novel, recorded in English and dubbed into Magyar – and to not understand a single word, but to know the whole story all the same.

2 comments:

The Essentialist said...
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The Essentialist said...

I find it somewhat interesting that the German television is so bad. I remember living in Holland and having a German channel that aired good movies like Pulp Fiction. Talk about a movie you can watch dubbed in any language.

Speaking of Magyar, I was on this website for my friend's gallery -- rather the gallery where she works. Anyway, they get interesting new art exhibits including shows from Francoise Gilot. I bring it up because the current exhibit has a Dali influenced painter. Surrealism seems to be the order of this post.
Varfok Galeria