Interpreting Bond, James Bond

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It's not often that interpreters play a role in big blockbuster movies, but maybe our moment has arrived courtesy of Bond, James Bond. We went to see the latest Bond movie, Spectre, last weekend, and while it might not be the best Bond movie ever, we really enjoyed the fact that interpreting was crucial in the movie. Well, maybe not crucial, but allow us to elaborate. We also thought it was marvelous that the movie was partially set in both of our dear countries, Mexico and Austria. Specifically, the very intense (and entirely unnecessary) opening scene takes place in Mexico City, where we grew up. So the movie won us over in the first 10 minutes (we are easy to please).

In typical Bond fashion, in this movie there's a very, very bad guy (and very petty, too, and he holds grudges--but no spoilers here) who wants to basically dominate the world (sound familiar?) and yes, of course he wants to kill the very suave James Bond (a fascinating, if not classically beautiful Daniel Craig). This evil dude runs a big international group of fellow evil-doers, and as one might expect, they hail from different countries. They have their big bad meeting in a snazzy Roman palace and everyone just speaks their language while the truly invisible interpreters (at least we never see them in the movie) work their magic in this large, cavernous hall. We can't imagine the acoustics would be very good, but we digress. We didn't really see any of the speakers turn on a microphone, either, but perhaps they were wearing lapel microphones. Or not. Or something. This is, after all, the movies. And everyone took turns speaking; what a concept for those of us who work as court interpreters! Those who needed interpreting services used what looked like Sennheiser receivers, and for those in the movie theater, the nice people at MGM provided fantastic subtitles.

Now, of course, the things discussed at this meeting of evil people were, well, pretty evil. Good thing it's a movie, so we don't have to worry about a real code of interpreter ethics here, but it does beg the question about how one would behave if you were put in a situation like this one where you had to interpret truly horrific things that have only one goal: to pretty much destroy most of humanity and enrich a few. Would you do it? 

In the meantime, despite some minor flaws, we are delighted to see that simultaneous interpreters (even if they are never seen, as is oftentimes the case in conference interpreting) have made an appearance in a major Bond movie. Here's the trailer if you are interested:


Josh Goldberg said...

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) features a brief scene with a Klingon/English courtroom interpreter when Kirk and McCoy stand trial in a Klingon court. It's at about 41 minutes into the movie if anyone wants to just seek out that scene (though I highly recommend the entire movie).

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on November 25, 2015 at 11:16 AM said...

@Josh: Many thanks for letting us know! We are not Trekkies at all, but that looks fascinating indeed. We shall check it out--thanks for sharing!

Victor Dewsbery on December 23, 2015 at 2:56 AM said...

I have seen Spectre in two languages. If my memory serves me correctly, the woman who spoke German with English subtitles in the English version of that conference scene spoke Italian (I think it was) with German subtitles in the German version.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on December 28, 2015 at 3:34 PM said...

@Victor: Ah, very interesting indeed. We are actually about to go see the movie again (first time for Dagy), so we will be sure to pay extra close attention to those very important scenes featuring interpreters and the work of subtitlers. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece about James Bond, so entertaining and in the elegant comedy style of the Jenner twins. You are both lovely and wish you a fantastic 2016!!

Raul Castillo

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on January 6, 2016 at 4:48 PM said...

@Raul: Thanks so much for your lovely comment--we are delighted to hear that you enjoyed our little blog post. Happy 2016 to you as well and see you soon!

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