Classic Film : Netflix's unusual version of "The Third Man" (1949)

Netflix's unusual version of "The Third Man" (1949)

Netflix US is streaming the classic The Third Man (1949) with a difference: All of the non-English dialog is subtitled! The German, Russian, and Latin (funeral rites) dialog that I never understood before has been translated, and the subtitles are not selectable; no way to turn them off (that I can find). Watching it this way is a new and different experience; for one thing it diminishes the impression that Cotten's character is a 'fish out of water'.

Re: Netflix's unusual version of "The Third Man" (1949)

I don't recall - is Cotton talking German to any of them ?
I don't speak German, but understand Russian, they didn't say anything important, just to keep atmosphere

Re: Netflix's unusual version of "The Third Man" (1949)

Cotten's character doesn't speak any German (he clumsily tries a few words).

I speak some Russian and a little German but you can generally get the gist of what's going on. It's not necessary that most of what's said other than in English be understood word-for-word anyway. Most of what is important is translated by other characters. Subtitles would ruin the atmosphere and point of the film.

The worst example of this issue was when some dope at United Artists decided in the 90s to subtitle the Russian-language sequences in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966). Mostly this is not needed even though people who don't understand the language don't know what's being said -- just getting the sense of the scene is enough. The film got this right in the first place.

But the subtitling got completely ridiculous at the climax, when the sub captain is threatening the town and Alan Arkin is acting as translator between the two sides. The dope in charge of this subtitling added subtitles to everything said in Russian -- even though it was either immediately followed by Arkin saying the exact same thing in English (when translating for the Americans), or it was what Arkin had just been told in English (when he translates it for the captain)! Utterly asinine. Luckily that print seems to have been tossed out.

Re: Netflix's unusual version of "The Third Man" (1949)

In the closed-caption version of the DVD of Man of a Thousand Faces the sign language is subtitled, which doesn't occur in the film.

One of my pet peeves, because I teach English to non-native speakers, is--as is the case with the neighbor in The Third Man--a character struggles to form a sentence in English, but then says "knocked over by a car" and "gravediggers". These are not words or expressions this character would know.

Even worse is Vicky Christina Barcelona. Penelope Cruz is very uncomfortable with English, yet at one point says (I don't remember the precise quote but this is close) "She's suffering from acute melancholia."

Out of the blue she becomes one of Woody's Manhattanites.




Mice work in mysterious ways.
No, dear. That's God.

Re: Netflix's unusual version of "The Third Man" (1949)

as someone for whom English is not first language, and who is surrounded by ppl who speak English less than perfectly I usually pick up those inconsistencies.

Most usually ppl will have trouble with articles "the" and "a" (something that should have been removed from language hundred of years ago if you ask me), and sentence structure. Sentences will either be very simple, or incorrectly structured. They will almost never use a wrong word, but vocabulary would be understandably weak.
They never get it right on films or in literature. One of the worst examples is "Everything Is Illuminated" It's funny, but completely unrealistic. Boy's sentence structure and articles are almost perfect, yet he continually using wrong words (as if from the dictionary)

Re: Netflix's unusual version of "The Third Man" (1949)

You're right. When I have to teach the differences between "the definite article" (the) and "the indefinite article" (a/an) the response from students is "this is difficult".

But not as difficult as in Spanish where the article is used far more frequently than it is in English.

It bothers me that most people who write in English aren't as conscious of how non-natives speak than they should be.

If I'm not mistaken Woody Allen's grandparents were European-born, so he should have a greater awareness of this.




Mice work in mysterious ways.
No, dear. That's God.

Re: Netflix's unusual version of "The Third Man" (1949)

Oh, diz!


It bothers me that most people who write in English aren't as conscious of how non-natives speak than they should be.


"As they should be"!

I think the same can be said of native speakers of any language when dealing with non-native speakers.

Re: Netflix's unusual version of "The Third Man" (1949)

Yep I write informally on Message Boards and Social Media.

But at least I try to spell correctly in both English and Spanish.

It bugs me how many native Spanish-speakers can't tell the difference between the letters "b" and "v". They confuse them constantly.




Mice work in mysterious ways.
No, dear. That's God.

Re: Netflix's unusual version of "The Third Man" (1949)


Most usually ppl will have trouble with articles "the" and "a" (something that should have been removed from language hundred of years ago if you ask me)


Spoken like a true Slavophile, Oleg!

It is amazing when you think that articles are either the most-used words in a language or don't exist in it at all. No articles exist in any Slavic languages, for example (except Bulgarian, which evolved a postposed definite article, to, from its word for "this"; but I don't think it has an indefinite article, that is, the equivalent of "a/a"). Japanese, Latin, many other languages lack articles. Personally I think they make a language richer, more specific and more readily understood.

I mean, Dostoyevsky wrote the play we call The Idiot, but in Russian it's just Idiot. The "The" seems right given the play's context but it could also have used "A" instead and made sense, though in a slightly different way. Or maybe it didn't need an article at all in English, just "Idiot". You can argue the subtleties of this but each carries a slightly different meaning that could be appropriate depending on the author's intended nuance.

Bottom line: articles are good! Of course, I didn't need to say "The bottom line"!

PS: However, calling the film that's the subject of this thread simply "Third Man" would lose a critical portion of information and overtone. Without the article, it could be read as "A Third Man", which isn't quite the same thing, either linguistically or in the film's plot.
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