Why I Won’t Watch English Language Movies in Spanish

Posted: December 17, 2011 in Life, Movies, Spain, Tenerife, Uncategorized
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The obvious answer is that Spanish dubbing is so bad that ripping out your ear drums with a butcher’s hook is kinder to those weird protrusions on the side of your head than subjecting them to The King’s Speech sounding more like Once Upon a Time in Meheeeco.

But that’s not the main reason.

There used to be two mainstream cinema complexes on Tenerife where you could catch the latest-ish movies in their original language; at La Villa in La Orotava and at Gran Sur in Costa Adeje. Each screened one V.O. (version original) a week. Sometimes the movie was good, sometimes it was bobbins.

The one in La Orotava didn’t last long; there’s just not a big enough audience for English language movies in the north of Tenerife.

The south of Tenerife is a different matter. In some municipalities up to 75% of the population are non-Canarios. Not all of these are English speaking, but there’s a massive percentage who are.

And yet every time I’ve been to the Gran Sur Cinema to watch V.O. There has been less than 10 other people in the cinema with me. Doesn’t matter how good the movie is, even the likes of Inception and The Adventures of Tintin didn’t bring in the English speaking crowds.

I just don’t get it. Andy and I think nothing of the 90 minute journey from Puerto de la Cruz to Costa Adeje if the movie warrants it. DVDs are wonderful, but you can’t beat watching BIG movies on the big screen. So, as most ex-pat residents on Tenerife live significantly closer to the cinema, why aren’t audiences bigger? It’s a mystery to me.

The apparent lack of support for the V.O has had me worried that it might be pulled (I say apparent because for all I know, the place is teeming on the days I’m not there).

Sure enough, for the last two weeks the V.O. movie has been absent from Gran Sur. They say that it might be back, but if they don’t re-introduce it I’ll be gutted.

I’ve been a massive fan of the movies since leafing through my mum’s Photoplays when I was knee high to a popcorn seller. I love movies and I especially get a thrill out of seeing them at the cinema.

And because I feel this way about films, I won’t watch dubbed ones.

You might think that as I live in Spain, I should watch movies in Spanish. I do…but only Spanish movies. I also watch French, Chinese, Brazilian, Swedish movies etc…all in their original language (with English subtitles of course).

Movies aren’t just about the visuals – without the performance of the actor, the movie is nothing. And that’s why dubbing is irritating in the extreme.

Dubbing lessens a movie (well maybe not one with Van Damme, Steven Seagal or Chuck Norris). You can’t tell whether a film is good or bad when you’re listening to some wooden performance from a professional dubber. Where’s the richness of voice? Where’s the emotion? Where’s the intonation or the subtlety in the performance? With dubbing you lose all of that…and subsequently you also lose the soul of the movie.

How can people who watch dubbed movies know how good an actor Leo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt is? The answer is that they can’t.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was on Spanish TV last week. I’d forgotten how delicious Richard Burton’s voice was. Imagine casting those rich vocals aside for some part-timer from Valencia with a voice that grates like nails down a board.

It would simply be a crime.

  1. Nikki says:

    I only watch dubbed films as my youngest prefers films in Spanish and there are younger actors Matt Daemon for example who I have no idea how he sounds. There are TV shows I will not now watch in English as the voices are weird.
    But I feel the same way about the big screen. There is nothing like it. I hope for you both that VO films have not been discontinued

    • dragojac says:

      I totally understand why Spanish speakers would watch in Spanish, half the TV programmes would be subtitled if they were all broadcast only in VO. I can imagine the uproar if most TV programmes in the UK were dubbed. The beauty of digital TV of course is that it gives us all the option to watch the way we prefer.
      It’s interesting you mentioning Matt Damon – Andy and I were speculating recently that many Spanish speaking movie goers wouldn’t know what the likes of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp et al actually sounded like.

      The thing that most drives me mad about dubbing is when they use adults voices for children – for me it totally distracts and detracts from the movie/tv show.

  2. Anonymous says:

    There is still one place that shows films in their original version – the cinema of the Tenerife Espacio de Artes in Santa Cruz. And it’s cheap, at 4 euros a ticket, plus it wouldn’t take you 90 minutes to get there.

  3. Sonjie Kennington says:

    There is still one place where they show all the films in original version – the cinema of the Tenerife Espacio de Artes in Santa Cruz. And it’s cheap, at 4 euros a ticket, plus it wouldn’t take you 90 minutes to get there.

    • dragojac says:

      Thanks Sonjie – I’ve been to TEA a few times. It is definitely more convenient for us. We saw Inglourious Basterds there which was an experience. Parts of the film are in French, German and Italian as well as English so different nationalities in the audience laughed at different times – it was quite bizarre.

  4. I totally agree. I’ve been so busy moving I hadn’t noticed that they’d discontinued. My experience has been the same, almost always just a handful of folk, although I remember one time when it was busy but can’t remember which movie! IMHO I think they perhaps leave them on for too long. If they changed weekly and gave more choice then the audiences might be larger. They basically only show the ones they think will be popular in English (or other language). Possibly even just one or two nights a week in English. One of the other problems was the hours. I think they began showing movies in English only quite early in the day, when, of course, it isn’t convenient for many people. I just checked and it looks as if Zentral Center have also stopped doing it…..basically, marketing again? So if you get five or ten folk per day, just squeeze them all into an appropriate time frame….and of course sell them popcorn and hot dogs too! I so miss having hotdogs at the cine!

    TEA, as you know, give us marvelous opportunities to see great films. To my knowledge it only shows quality films, some of which are no longer on general release, so it’s a chance to catch up with older films, or “re-live” them – “Summer of Sam” for instances earlier this year. What they don’t do is show “latest releases”.

  5. colleen keyes says:

    When they started showing VO films at Gran Sur, I vowed I would go to each and every of them as I saw the result of apathy whilst living in Gran Canaria – the cinema stopped showing VO after 6 months, and to my knowledge, never restarted. But, like you, I share the cinema with so few people, I wonder why they stick with it – my latest visit to see TinTin saw me, myself and nobody else watching a film that should ONLY be seen on the big screen. It really beggars belief doesn´t it? Come on you English speakers! Support your local cinema……….I know you´re out there somewhere!

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