Monday, 3 August 2015

Austenland in translation

I was watching the guilty pleasure that is Austenland last night, dubbed into Italian. (I'd previously seen it in English). Austenland is a romcom about a group of misfits who sign up for an 'immersive Austen experience'. Much of the broad comedy plays on accent: Jennifer Coolidge perpetrating a series of appalling come-back-Dick-van-Dyke-all-is-forgiven outrages on received pronunciation; Georgia King channelling Miranda Richardson's Queenie; Bret McKenzie not trying particularly hard to disguise his New Zealand accent, presumably on the grounds that his employer's usual clients wouldn't be able to tell the difference anyway.

How can one badly fake an English accent in Italian? I wish my Italian was good enough to get a real sense of this from the dubbed version. But I could at least see how they manage the moment near the end of the film where Jane discovers that 'Lady Amelia Heartwright', played by Georgia King, is actually American too.

The English script goes more or less:
"Amelia Heartwright": Farewell! [sinking back into her seat in the carriage] God, that was the best time so far. Except for the eye gouging.
Jane: You're not British??
AH: Yeah, I know, right?! Well, that's what two years of private drama tutoring will get you.
The information that Heartwright is American is only conveyed here through accent. Of course the accent doesn't really come across (sorry, I couldn't find the clip itself online). The Italian script goes:
AH: Alla prossima! Dio, questa è stata la migliore di tutte le volte! Sì, a parte l'occhio, certo...
Jane: Ma tu stavi recitando??
AH: Sì! Sono bravina, vero? Be', due anni di lezioni di recitazione private sono serviti...
(Alla ricerca di Jane)
[AH: Goodbye! God, this was the best time of all! Yes, apart from the eye, of course...
Jane: You were acting??
AH: Yes! I'm pretty good, right? Well, two years of private acting lessons worked...]
The difference is that in English, Jane is astonished that Amelia has turned out not to be British. Since Amelia doesn't do a bad job of channelling Miranda Richardson, and since any British accent at all sounds great beside the efforts of Lady Elizabeth Charming (Jennifer Coolidge), this works OK.

In Italian, Jane is just astonished that Amelia was putting on an act - which is much less plausible. I couldn't find any more suitable footage on Youtube than the gag reel, but to get an idea of Lady Amelia Heartwright's acting style, see

Having said that, metalingual comments must be among the most difficult things to translate, and I don't easily see how else the dubber could have done it. How was it done in other languages? All comments from people who've seen the Italian, or any, dubbed version are very welcome... 

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