I choose my films on plot and recommendation. Recommendation from friends and from reviews... generally Empire Magazine and Guardian Film - they've never really let me down in the past. I never really look at the country of origin until after I've made that mental decision that splits into 3 categories:
- I need to watch that in the cinema soon;
- I may give that a gander on DVD/ download if I can grab a spare evening;
- I am never, ever going to subject myself to that...
When watching The Chaser last night, something struck me about watching films with subtitles. (Actually, it strikes me every time I watch a subtitled film, but for the first time I've actually remembered to articulate it into something resembling pseudo-intelligent comment.)
I've realised that when you watch a film that is subtitled it creates a different set of behaviours than if you watch a film that isn't.
For a start, I automatically feel more intelligent. I'm watching a foreign film. I'm not just watching it and relaxing whilst exercising my cognitive surplus, I'm reading and trying to figure out which words relate to the text.
Also, when I'm reading the subtitles I can't fully focus on the visuals. I have to jump from text to visuals. This means I read the text as quickly as I can and then jump up to the key part of the screen. Often this is a face of a character. In order to judge the emotion of the character I not only want to read what they are saying, but the tone in which it's said, the emotion on their face and their body language. Usually for an English speaking film I'd get all this in one small bundle. For a subtitled film I have to carry this out in two separate actions: Read the dialogue; observe emotion. This means you have to become incredibly adept at reading human emotion quickly as you don't want the scene to change before you've had the chance to have a good gander at the character.
I find that I experience the sound a lot more in subtitled films. Whilst I'm reading the subtitles I'm listening not only to the dialogue but to the ephemeral sound to pick up any indication of what's happening in the visuals. (In the case of The Chaser I noticed that I could hear the burn and crackle of the cigarettes being sucked on much more than I had in previous films... and they were always Dunhill. Me thinks post-production and product placement were at play...)
I was thinking of suggesting that subtitles should be moved around the screen to suit the scenes, so that you're always looking in the key part of the scene... but come to think of it after reviewing what I've written above I think that would be a shame. There's a certain art to watching a subtitled film and I guess you could argue it heightens your perception of a film. I think next time I watch an English speaking film on DVD I may watch it in a different language and turn on the subtitles. I reckon that would be quite a nice little experiment.
Anyway, both films are superb and I'd recommend seeing them.