Seorang Hobbit

Finally got around to seeing The Hobbit – it had been embargoed to my sibs and me because our parents wanted to watch it together. Overall it was pretty good, although as with the live-action Lord of the Rings films, I’m not happy with the Jacksonian (for lack of a better word; since he’s not American I can’t really say “Hollywood”) treatment of the characters. Everybody is just outrageously disrespectful. Let’s say if you were being chased by a mugger and you were forced to take shelter in the house of someone you don’t like – you still wouldn’t be so rude to them, right? Whereas Tolkien’s dwarves seem to be big on protocol and courtesy in general. so the worst behaviour in Rivendell is that Thorin speaks “a bit gruffly” to the elves, let alone Elrond.

The big source of unintentional hilarity, however, was the Malay subtitles. I don’t know what it is with captioners in Malaysia, but they’re champions at generating malapropisms. I remember when I was a small child catching a documentary on aquaculture that stated “ikan goreng dilepaskan ke dalam kolam untuk dibesarkan” (fish fry are released into the grow-out ponds). Closer to my main point, a friend who saw The Fellowship of the Ring in a local cinema said that the Ring was “dipalsukan dalam api Mount Doom” (“forged” in the fraudulent sense).

There weren’t any such howlers in this movie that we spotted, although the one meaningful error I noticed “caves in the mountains are seldom unoccupied” came out as “jarang didiami”, whereas it should have been “jarang TIDAK [or “tak”? I haven’t noticed if they use contractions in subtitles] didiami”.

The most glaring problem is that the captioners tend to translate the sense of the words in a way that utterly fails to capture the spirit. Radagast is certainly rather a simpleton compared to Gandalf and Saruman, but he is a Maiar, of the Council of the Istari, and deserves better than “Radagast Si Coklat”. Mama asked why we kept laughing every time Radagast was on. “Saruman Si Putih” on the other hand sounds like what you’d name a cat.

(Last night we were looking through my family’s old collaborative diary and absolutely cracking up. According to my second sister at age four, the Malay word for brown is “Milo”.)

Also, instances where something SHOULD have been translated but wasn’t: Among a few other place-names, I really disliked “Great East Road” being translated as “Jalan Great East”. Yes, it’s being used as a proper noun, but why not translate the whole thing as “Jalan Besar Timur”? Jalan Great East sounds like where you’d find the Malaysian HQ of the Great Eastern insurance company.

I barely read Chinese, but I have a suspicion that the Chinese subs were a lot better. My father, who’s the only one in the family who’s fully literate, unfortunately wasn’t paying attention to the subs.

Sigh. Add “movie script translator” to the list of things I’d like to do if I can’t continue in science.

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