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Why are only some Kurosawa film titles translated?

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    Yingzhe

    My question is exactly as the title says: why are only some titles translated, while others are left with a romanisation of the Japanese?

    For example: No one calls Seven Samurai “Shichinin no Samurai” or High and Low “Tengoku to Jigoku” (of which a better translation might be “Heaven and Hell”, but w/e), yet Ran is not translated to “Chaos” (or “disorder”; “disarray”; w/e) and Kagemusha is not translated to “Shadow Warrior.” Likewise, Ikiru isn’t translated to “To Live” nor is Yojimbo translated to “The Bodyguard,” however most others are (proper nouns aside). Why is there this discrepancy? Why does “Yume” get translated into Dreams, but Madadayo isn’t switched to “Not Yet”?

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    Vili Maunula

    It’s a good question. The answer, I think, has to do with the title’s perceived marketability. I suppose single word titles can work in a foreign language and even be catchy and exotic, but longer ones wouldn’t be marketable.

    It also varies from place to place, and some Kurosawa films have gone through several titles for a single language. Seven Samurai, for instance, was titled The Magnificent Seven for a while in the US, but after the western remake that used this title, it hasn’t been used for Kurosawa’s film.

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    Yingzhe

    Thanks for the reply! That certainly does make sense, although it makes me wonder why some were omitted. Was The Idiot ever left as “Baka”? Likewise, it’s still somewhat curious that Madadayo wasn’t translated–I would have thought that it would be a mouthful for those not used to the sounds of Japanese.

    In any case I’m sure that you’re right regarding marketing–I suppose I’d just have to ask the individuals responsible for the different distributions to get a better sense of the decisions.

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    Vili Maunula

    In the case of The Idiot (actually Hakuchi in Japanese), it is understandable that they would go with the title that is also used for Dostoevsky’s novel in English.

    Here by the way is an interesting poster for Ikiru: https://www.cinematerial.com/movies/ikiru-i44741/p/80pfelis

    The film was titled Doomed also in Finnish (Tuomittu).

    Dodedukaden became Clickety-Clack in some releases. And Record of a Living Being is currently more often titled I Live in Fear in English, but I stubbornly use the more literal title.

    In the end, there really appears to be fairly little method to this madness. ­čÖé

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    Yingzhe

    Oh, I thought it would have been “Baka,” my mistake. Thanks for sharing that poster, “Doomed” seems a very strange title for the film, however it’s neat to see how different groups were conceiving of/marketing it.

    I also use Record of a Living Being instead of I Live in Fear, glad to see I’m not the only one!

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    Ugetsu

    I assume its primarily a marketing decision. As he became more famous, I would guess that keeping the original Japanese name made more sense as ‘Kurosawa’ itself would be a big selling point. I think with Madadayo it would be hard to change the name as the word itself is so central to the plot (similarly with Dodes’ka-den).

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