You look the same – you talk the same?

There is a never-ending stream of book-to-film adaptations.  Those that quickly come to mind include The Shawshank Redemption, the Harry Potter series and the Twilight series.

One film that struck a chord is the 2005 film Memoirs of a Geisha.  Based on the book of the same name by Arthur Golden, it depicts the tale of a young girl who grows up to be one of the most prominent geisha in Kyoto.

As a big fan of the book, I was curious as to how it was going to be made. However, I ended up being disappointed. I was confronted by a feature with three distinguished Chinese actresses in the lead roles, speaking English. The only Japanese native speakers had secondary roles, yet they were also speaking English.

From the initial news on its production, I envisioned the film to be a celebration of Japan – from its language to its culture. There was an opportunity to use undiscovered talent speaking Japanese, taking pride in a film about one of the most culturally significant aspects of their country.

The use of English may have increased the appeal and accessibility of the film but the fact that they used Chinese actresses to represent Japanese characters with English dialogue lacks originality. It is like a McDonalds film – it appeals to the masses with very little taste.

For this reason, I enjoyed Lost in Translation. You learn about different aspects of Japan – the culture, the country, the people – and most importantly, Japanese actors speak Japanese. So what if you do get lost in translation? That’s all part of the fun 🙂

So everyone, how do you feel about films with clashing cultures?  Do culturally relevant films need English? Thoughts on a postcard (or in the comments!) please…


Leave a Comment