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Match point
Gb/Usa, 2005

“Ci sono momenti in una partita di tennis in cui la palla colpisce la parte alta della rete e per una frazione di secondo non sappiamo se la supererà. Con un pizzico di fortuna potremmo vincere la partita”. (There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net and for a split second it can either go forward or fall back; with luck it goes forward and you win). That’s how the new film begins, written and directed by Woody Allen, and awarded with four 2006 Golden Globe nominations. Here, his proverbial cynicism is gloomy and complete leaving no space either to the usual disenchanted and desecrate Jewish irony, or, less still, to his beloved New York, whose familiar skyline is substituted by London views. Life is seen as a game of tennis in which you can win or lose simply through a bit of luck.

The young and attractive Irish tennis teacher Chris (interpreted by the emerging Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) is taken on to give lessons to the same aged Tom (Matthew Goode), offspring of a rich upper middle class London family. He has a sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer), who falls in love with Chris at first sight. So begins what could be a perfect idyll, taking place between the City and the luxuriant surrounding countryside, if it weren’t for the fact that the protagonist isn’t really in love with Chloe, a slim naive brunette but only attracted to her affluence and economic stability. And so it happens that Chris is soon taken on in the family firm and reveals himself to be what he truly is: a social climber, too full of himself to feel real emotions. His passions seem to be tennis, even though he doesn’t manage to be successful, opera, whose Verdian excerpts, from the Traviata to Othello, form the soundtrack to the events connecting them like a real and proper Leitmotiv, and Dostojevski’s literature.

This bourgeois existence tranquilly listless and only apparently perfect is shaken by the meeting with the very sensual and very blonde Nola (Scarlett Johansson), aspiring actress and Tom’s American fiancée. Between her and Chris, it’s love at first sight and Nola soon becomes Chris’ obsession. But despite this, he doesn’t renounce to marrying Chloe and settling down for good, not even when his brother-in-law leaves the beautiful actress to marry someone else. Nola is only the lover who, with the would-be champion, has in common the fact of not being a high-ranking Englishman and the fact that, just like he isn’t successful in tennis, she isn’t successful in cinema. It’s just that, on the contrary to Chris, she’s not enough of a social climber to keep a strong hold on someone who could have been an excellent match. The clandestine relationship soon gives its results and no sooner does Nola say that she’s pregnant, Chris’ cynical comment is: “Che irrimediabile sfortuna” (what unbelievable bad luck). So here is the theme of good luck/bad luck which pervades the film from beginning to end, so much so that parallel to this unwanted pregnancy we have Chloe’s undesired sterility, who, instead, would like to but can’t fall pregnant and, frustrated, says to her husband: “E’ che non abbiamo fortuna”(we haven’t been lucky yet).

Things get complicated when Nola threatens Chris to tell his wife everything. Fearing in fact the loss of all he’s managed to obtain, our anti-hero doesn’t have any scruples in becoming a killer in order to protect his golden existence. And with the complicity of a capricious and indifferent destiny, the crime goes unpunished. Unpunished, therefore, in a finale devoid of any moral reflecting the director’s same view, who affirms: “Mi piacerebbe pensare che esista una giustizia divina, un destino amico che davvero premi i giusti e punisca i criminali, ma sono ormai convinto che non ci sia nulla di tutto ciò. Nel film si dice che a volte bisogna sacrificare gli innocenti per un fine più alto, chiaramente non sono d’accordo, ma nella vita non c’è una ragione vera per cui succedono determinate cose. Avvengono e basta, e noi possiamo solo piegarci alle leggi di questo gioco senza regole, dove i più furbi o peggiori spesso hanno la meglio”. (I’d like to think that a divine justice exists, a friendly destiny which really does award the righteous and punishes the criminals, but I’m convinced now that this doesn’t exist. In the film they say that sometimes the innocent are slain to make way for a higher end, clearly I don’t agree, but in life there isn’t a real reason why certain things happen. They happen and that’s that and we can only bend ourselves to the laws of this game without rules, where the more cunning or the worst often come out best”.

From the dubbing point of view it’s a duty to say that for the whole duration of the film, both in the first part where the story runs slowly like a match viewed through a film editing machine, and in the second part, where the rhythm is faster and the events seem to irreparably precipitate, there are too many slips in dubbing techniques and too many interferences from the English language which, despite some brilliant adaptation solutions do not render full justice to a master of dialogue like Woody Allen. Tragic fatality or simply a sign of the blindness of destiny which pervades the entire film? On hindsight the arduous judgment; for now let’s note that in some lines verbs of sentiment, modals and possessive adjectives have been messed up a bit too much.

In the first case we find ourselves listening to expressions like: “Tom amerebbe averti come cognato” (Tom would love to have you as a brother-in-law) (Tom’s father says this to Chris, showing himself to be in agreement with the marriage between Chris and his daughter Chloe), “Amami” (Love me)(Tom says to Chloe as he teases her), “Eri molto teso al balletto. L’hai odiato?” (you were very tense at the ballet. Did you hate it?) (Chloe asks Chris). In English the use of the verbs to love and to hate is largely used to express not only feelings, but also preferences, opinions and questions of taste. This is obviously valid also in the Italian language, but only to a certain extent. So much so that the above mentioned lines sound a little out of place. An Italian would naturally be inclined to say: “A Tom piacerebbe/farebbe piacere averti come cognato” (Tom would like to have you as a brother-in-law”or “Tom vorrebbe averti come cognato” (Tom would like you to be his brother-in-law). The verb to love appears too strong and out of place in such a context, which simply expresses a desire on behalf of a person. Just like it’s decidedly out of place in Italian that a brother ironically says to his sister to love him whilst he’s teasing her by tickling her. In English it’s tranquilly used as if to say: “Non sono un amore di fratello?”(aren’t I a love of a brother?), and the effect is purposely that of teasing because he doing something which he knows will annoy her. Of course for the sinc it’s unthinkable to use such a long expression, but surely it would’ve been possible to find a solution in order to render the original “love me” idiomatical. In the same way the verb to hate used referring to the ballet is too strong. It would have been sufficient to translate the probable original “Did you hate it?” with a simple “Non ti è piaciuto?” (Didn’t you like it?), logically always respecting the sinc, trying to perfectly adapt the dubbed expression with the lip movement, also considering that the characters, precisely as in the cited examples, are not always seen up front, in the foreground, as they speak.

On the other hand, as far as the modal verbs are concerned, it’s worth remembering that in English dovere (must/have to) and potere (can) indicate respectively the obligation to do or not to do something and the capacity to do or not do something. Their communicative function is therefore very strong and not always do we have the same significance in Italian. So when, considering Chris’ extra-marital behavior we hear the dubbed Chris say that the dirt must be hidden under the carpet (push the guilt under the rug), that “Devi farlo, se non vuoi essere travolto”, (you have to otherwise it overwhelms you) that devi (must), expresses something which you are obliged to do so as not to be found out. In Italian it would correspond to a “Bisogna farlo” (you must do it), which can easily be rendered also with an imperative like “Fallo” (do it), which has the same strength as the English modal. A similar thing can be said, but this time with the addition of a negation also when Chris says to Nola: “Non dobbiamo avere un figlio” (we don’t have to have a child together). The probable original version “We must not” would indicate in fact in Italian “Non è necessario avere un figlio” (it’s not necessary to have a child), because the baby would put Chris (who ably hides himself behind the first person plural) in an extremely uncomfortable situation. The question Nola asks Chris when talking to him on her mobile phone is terrible: “Quando puoi essere qui?” (when can you get here?), which translated from dubbing on the false note of the English version in Italian would mean simply “Quando vieni?” (when are you coming?) or at the most “Quando puoi venire?” (when can you come?) if you don’t want to renounce the use of the modal.

Noticeable interferences with the original language of the film are also found regarding the use of possessive adjectives. We know in fact that in English the possessive article is used before the substantive noun to which it refers. Whereas in Italian the definite articles or indefinite articles are not necessarily used together with the possessive adjective. So when Chloe asks Chris: “Che hai messo in tasca?” (what have you just put in your pocket?), he doesn’t have to forcibly answer: “Le mie pillole”(my pills/tablets), but he could limit himself to answering “Le pillole”(pills). Likewise can be said for Nola’s neighbour, who affirms: “Devo prendere la mia medicina” (I have to take my medicine).

Other clear linguistic interferences present in the film are: “Ero fuori controllo” (I was out of control) for “Ero fuori di me” (I was beside myself) , “Dì il tuo numero” (say your phone number) for “Dammi il tuo numero” (give me your number), “In città” (in the city) for “In centro” (in the centre) and “Niente per cominciare?” (nothing for starters?) for “Degli antipasti/aperitivi?” (hor d’hoevres/Aperitifs?). Typical of dubbing adaptations are expressions like “Salve, Alan” (“Hi, Alan”), where a neutral greeting is associated with the proper name of a person, and “La signorina Rice ha lasciato l’appartamento”, (Miss. Rice has given up the apartment) to say “La signorina Rice ha traslocato/è andata via di casa” (Miss. Rice has moved/has gone away). It’s worth perhaps to dwell on the use, often excessive, of the word “appartamento” (apartment/flat) in dubbed films. In Italian in fact one normally speaks of one’s abode as “casa” (home/house), whether its a flat/apartment, a villa or a small attic. Nevertheless the large use of the term “appartamento” (flat/apartment) transformed by dubbing seems to have left its mark, so much so that the recent song by Mario Venuti “Qualcosa brucia ancora” (Something still burns), which will probably take part in the next Sanremo song Festival, begins with the line: “Abito un appartamento un po’ troppo grande per me” (I live in an apartment a little too big for me).

In the Italian dialogues of “Matchpoint” there are some particularly brilliant solutions, for example the term “gastropub”, a type of venue obviously very present in multiethnic London, which hasn’t made its roots yet here in Italy. Meanwhile the film has contributed to spreading the name creating an authentic neologism, and who knows if sooner or later a gastropub doesn’t open up in our cities. Finally, worthy of note are some of Tom’s lines, like: “Non tocco una racchetta da secolissimi” (I haven’t picked up a racket in ages), “Rinfodera quell’orribile diritto” (I request that horrid right), “Danno una Traviatissima” (they’re given a super Traviata) and “Buon Natalaccio” (Happy horrid Christmas) which, especially through the use of the suffix –issimo to express the superlative, applied here to substantives, and through the use of the suffix –accio for the depreciatory, well underlines his typical manner of speaking which in the original version is shown by his particular way of speaking as a Londoner from a good family, a universally recognized characteristic of Woody Allen who couldn’t let slip such an opportunity. That’s why the Italian adaptation has managed to portray from the linguistic point of view, something which was otherwise not possible to communicate for example the high-class, educated Londoner. It’s a pity that these genialities are few in respect to the dubbing slip-ups.

On the whole, the dubbing direction seen to by Maura Vespini is quite accurate in the choice of the voices and in the actors’ interpretation: Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, with his good-boy face which greatly contrasts with his character role as the unpunished Chris, and dubbed by Massimiliano Manfredi, who gives him a clear, clean tone, as if to underline the lucid madness which makes him a killer. In complete contrast on the other hand is the Italian voice of Scarlett Johansson, interpreted by Ilaria Stagni with a low, raucous voice, perhaps a little too forced (after all in the film Nola, a rebellious actress in search of transgression, does smoke a lot, but only cigarettes), even though she fully renders the passion and the seductiveness of the character. There is a but: the orchestration of the dubbing is penalized by the dialogues stuffed with dubbing adaptations and grammatical inaccuracies which we have already amply discussed. We hope therefore that for the next film Elettra Caporello (please don’t get upset!) let the actor speak in a more idiomatic way, in short, let him speak like a “true Italian”.

[original review in Italian by Marica Rizzo]


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