The BBC’s recent TV series “The Serpent” is based on a series of kidnappings and murders in Southeast Asia in the 1970s. Most of the victims were young Western backpackers who were attracted by the oriental style and went there; the main plotter was a Vietnamese-Indian mixed-race who grew up in France, and one of his accomplices was a girlfriend from Quebec, Canada; and he persevered in pursuing the murderer. It is not a policeman, but the third secretary of the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok, who is a diplomat. It is conceivable that when different characters talk on the screen, they speak a variety of languages.
The main plotter is Algerian French actor Tahar Rahim, who can switch between French and English freely. The role of the Dutch diplomat is British actor Billy Hall. He usually speaks English with a European accent. But when he talks with the Dutch ambassador, I can’t understand it at all. I can only read the subtitles. I guess it must be Dutch, but I can’t help but wonder, does Howl really speak Dutch? Isn’t it possible? Can the Dutch understand?
The British actor Jenna Kerman, who plays the lead girlfriend, speaks French and English with a French accent. I don’t understand French, but I saw people complaining about not understanding Kerman’s French on the Internet. When watching a drama, I have to turn the dialogue back to French based on English subtitles in order to guess what Kerman is saying.
I don’t have the ability to judge whether Kerman is fair, but this phenomenon highlights a problem that contemporary film and television dramas face: When the characters come from different countries and speak different languages, which national dialect should the actors speak?
Of course, this problem has always existed. It’s just that in the past, foreigners in English films all spoke English, and everyone had almost no opinion. Not to mention the period films, even if the story happened in contemporary times. For example, the villains and the Bond girls in 007 movies almost They are all foreigners, nothing more than speaking English with a little accent. However, nowadays audiences have higher requirements for authenticity. Whenever there are foreign sceneries in film and television dramas and the characters are foreigners, if the dialogue still speaks English, it will make people feel false. But in order to make a big hit, the producers are more willing to choose well-known British and American actors to act as foreigners, so they have to speak foreign languages.
In this way, the requirements for actors have naturally increased. However, British actors seem to be inherently inadequate in this regard. There are many European actors who can speak English fluently. In “Viper” Raheem speaks English with an “international accent” close to British English, but can speak English with an American accent when the plot requires it. In recent years, Nordic films and televisions have been very popular in the UK. Several actors from Denmark, Sweden and other countries later starred in English film and television dramas, such as the Danish TV series “Murder “(The Killing)” (The Killing) actor Russ Mickelson is equally comfortable in playing the protagonist in English films.
Sometimes, the presence of multiple languages in film and television dramas does not necessarily hinder the watching of the drama, but can instead become a means to enrich details. When I watched the TV series “Bron/Broen” (Bron/Broen) co-produced by Denmark and Sweden, I knew that the characters speak their respective national languages because they are similar and understand each other. Later, I occasionally learned on the “Guardian” website forum that a character in a dialogue in the play suddenly switched from Swedish to Danish, which had a profound meaning, and this is something that audiences like me who rely on subtitles can’t understand.
So compared to all the characters in the past speaking English, I still prefer the language they speak to suit their identity, although sometimes I mutter two words in my heart: “Does he speak Dutch? Can the Dutch understand it?”