Don’t let subtitles (aka the “one-inch barrier”) make you miss some great movies
If you haven’t seen the macabre, capitalistic nightmare (in the best way) that is Parasite, there might just be a few reasons for that. Maybe you’re not too much of a movie person, but, then again, who isn’t a movie person? It’s like saying you’re “not into music”…what?
Or, perhaps, it’s that until it made history at the 2020 Oscars – being the first foreign-language movie to win Best Picture – it wasn’t exactly the kind of movie shown at your local Cineplex next to the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog. And that could very well be due to the next (and possibly the most likely) reason – it has subtitles.
Americans are exactly the biggest readers in the first place – according to a YouGov poll conducted in January of this year, 25 percent said they read between 1 and 5 books a year. Let’s say it’s closer to 1… which means a quarter of our 300 million-plus population doesn’t like to look at words on the page. And frankly, sometimes (a lot of times) it shows. So, it’s not hard to see why the invasion of the written world into what is primarily the visual medium of film and television isn’t met with praise, but grunts of disapproval; and likely to initiate more queue scrolling in search for an English invention.
The director of Parasite, Bong Joon Ho, referred to subtitles as “the one-inch tall barrier” to some truly amazing films – that just so happen to not be American (or British) made. And that’s a real shame. I, myself, overcame that barrier, and if I can use a classic movie reverence here – it’s like being Dorothy and going from black and white to color. There are some truly, well-made, funny, dramatic, beautiful, challenging, and some downright weird and trippy (Fellini!) movies out there. And, after you’ve come across the one that hits you just right – you know that feeling. When a movie just does it for ya – you’ll wonder why you didn’t step over that one-inch barrier sooner.
I’ll be completely honest with you. Yes, it does take some getting used to. At first, your eyes will dart from words to images and back again at a rate that would only be normal for a high-speed tennis match. And it sinks in rather early on that pretty much everyone talks so damn fast when it’s not your native language. But, after a brief, albeit, intense adjustment period, you’ll be immersed, as well as overcome with self-adulation that you can ride all the way to the end of the movie. And then, when the credits roll, you’ll feel exceptionally cosmopolitan.
Now, I can’t go so far as to say that I am at a level of ease with foreign films that I could lay back and casually watch one the same way I could practically anything on the Food Network. But, if you love movies, it’s a good stretch – akin to the feeling you get after a good workout…I’m assuming.
Fun and challenging aren’t mutually exclusive…or, they shouldn’t be. And since many of us aren’t yet ready to travel to places far and wide, what better way to indulge in, say, the Parisian lifestyle than with some second-hand immersion into the world of the French New Wave. That’s a good place to start. And then, next thing you’ll know, you’ll be globe-trotting right from the comfort of your own living room.