Has ‘Let the Right One In’ Been Dumbed Down for DVD?

Contributed by Christopher Campbell

Isn’t it great to live in a time when home video exists, so we can all eventually see a critically acclaimed foreign film that hadn’t made it to our neighborhood multiplex? Well, home video may not always be an adequate substitute for the theatrical experience, and the new DVD and Blu-ray versions of the Swedish horror flick “Let the Right One In” is apparently a very good example of why. According to the website Icons of Fright, the English subtitles on the US home video releases are not only different from the theatrical print, they’re also simpler. Or, as the site argues, they’ve been “completely dumbed down.”

Icons of Fright writer RobG, who seems to be a worthy “Let the Right One In” expert, offers an ample amount of screengrabs from both the theatrical print (via an advance screener RobG received last year) and the new DVD from Magnolia Home Entertainment to illustrate some of the differences between Ingrid Eng’s original subtitles and the new “cheap” translation. “Sure, the basic gist of what the characters were saying was kind of there,” writes RobG, “but missing completely was the dark humor, subtleties and character nuances which made the movie so powerful and a favorite amongst audiences last year.”

This isn’t, of course, the first time there have been problems with foreign film subtitling; in fact, it’s an issue that’s been ongoing since the beginnings of cinema. Another recent foreign film of note, “The Class”, has some significant vocabulary that is lost in translation between the original French dialogue and the English subtitles, though for that film the translation problems actually work with the film’s theme of cultural misunderstandings. With “Let the Right One,” the problem is that it downgrades the quality of the film, as if Magnolia believed it to be just a straightforward vampire flick that might sell to fans of horror and “Twilight,” whom the distributor may think to be more simpleminded.

While the new subtitles for “Let the Right One In” may indeed allow for a broader appreciation of the film, the kind of audience this simplification primarily caters to is the one that will circumvent the Swedish film for the upcoming (presumably even more dumbed down) Hollywood remake anyway. Meanwhile, the true film fans who rent the movie after hearing so many great things said of it during its theatrical run are likely to be disappointed with how simple it (now) is.

Hopefully, in response to Icons of Fright and the subsequent coverage of this issue elsewhere in the blogosphere, Magnolia will own up to their error and make amends to both the film’s fans and its new viewers.

What do you think? Should the distributor recall copies of the DVD and Blu-ray and rerelease the videos with the proper subtitles, or do you actually not care how well a foreign film is translated?