Saturday, February 26, 2005

Mozart, the English Speaker

I have a fundamental question about English or American movies. Why do non-English speakers speak normal English in the movies?

For example, in "Amadeus", it is staged in 18th Century, Vienna, but all characters speak English. I wonder if American people think it's funny that Mozart said "My opera is full of German virtue." in English.

Asian characters who speak English in movies set in the past is even more funny. In "The Last Emperor", the Chinese Emperor and his mother speak English. I think it is very funny for Japanese to hear this. Even in "The Last Samurai", Japanese peasants speak Japanese and only the educated class speak English. A lot of Japanese question "Why can so many Japanese people speak in English?"

Of course, there are some incorporation of Vienna in "Amadeus". People don't say "Mister" but "Herr". The DVD's English subtitles says "Direktor" not "Director". But, in my opinion, it is not enough. This movie is very real. The location was an old city of Prague, which has 18th Century buildings and atmosphere. The costumes were reproduced in detail. The music director was Sir Neville Marriner, a very excellent conductor. But the language isn't real.

When I watch these movies at first, I don't think it's funny because I concentrate to read the Japanese subtitles. But whenever I watch it the second time, I always question the use of language.