30 March 2009

Say It Isn't So: An Example of How Not to Do Business and the Controversy Surrounding the Altered Subtitles for the Commercial DVD/BR Release of LDRKI

OK, first, let me apologize for egregiously acronymizing the full title of the film in question, an abbreviation I would never make unless there were good reason (in this case, a character limit on a post's title); shortening Låt den Ratte Komma In (Let the Right One In) to "LDRKI" is almost as horrendous an offense as the one enacted onto the film by its North American distributor, Magnet, but disonerously in my case an offense that could not have been averted. Magnet however withstands no such excuse and will receive no sympathy for its lack of just recourse from this one impassioned blogger, who this past year elected the film in question the Best of the Year. The distributor's offense? Botching exceptionally the English subtitles/translations of the Swedish characters' dialogue, so that they not only undermine the more profound subtleties of the film's narrative, but also and moreover undermine even the simple ones, like in the pictured (above) example that comes to us via Awards Daily from Icons of Fright. That example , along with many many others, makes it clear that there is a tremendous difference between a best approximate translation and a slapdash superficial rendering, a difference that in the case of any verbally dependent construct means verily life or death, meaning or non-meaning, significance or flap. And to condemn to flap the words of any such esteemed writing as the dialogue of this film is a serious grievance indeed. In response to the public outcry over this aggrieving mess the distributor has issued a semi-formal apology to fans of the work and has promised to produce all future DVD and BR editions of the film with the original subtitles, used in its U. S. theatrical release, which were quite succinctly a comparative Rosetta Stone. However, despite this issuance and this promise to make foreseeable amends to its product, the distributor has refused to consider the vociferous requests for reimbursement or at least free-exchange for those consumers who have already purchased the flawed version of the film to obtain the corrected one. Apparently, as Awards Daily so exactly diagnosed it, Magnet's response was not a real acceptance of responsibility on the distributor's part for what was clearly its own mistake as it was a terse acquiescence to what it makes out to be the unpredictable fancies of certain fans (see excerpt below): The company that simultaneously admits to a blunder refuses to bear the burden of correcting it and rather wants its customers to pay for the cost of correcting the faulty subtitles by rebuying the film at no alleviation to them - a business decision that, like those of so many other short-sighted and self-interested incorporations and institutions these days, was made of an utter disregard for certain groups of clients that are deemed insignificant and a callous and unwavering regard for only one's own bank account and one's own bottom line. Has no one learned anything? Have you, Magnet, not recognized by now that making moves like this one not only damage your extant client base but also encourage other potential clients to think twice about purchasing from you? More importantly, have you not recognized by now that acting exclusively out of self-interest in the business world is what has driven this country into the financial crisis out of which it is now failingly struggling to recover? And, perhaps most importantly, have you not recognized that mature individuals take full responsibilities for their own mistakes and consider pawning such responsibilities off, onto injuriously affected, insultingly involved third-parties is incredibly wrong and demeaning and - frankly - makes the actually responsible parties look like total jerks? How then, I pray you Magnet who I cannot believe have not recognized any of those things, does denying responsibility for what was clearly your error and concurrently asking your customers to accept that responsibility as if it had been entirely their fault look like the right way to go? Really, I'd like to know.
Despite whatever meager recourses you have pledged so far, recognize at least this: by flubbing so spectacularly what could have been an extremely minor lapse in judgement and PR piece-of-cake, you have lost certainly not only me but also many others who would have otherwise been diligent patrons of your business, even despite the fact of how much we all enjoyed the movie whose rights, it is unfortunate, you have the right to distribute. Enjoy you your position on top of permanently lessened revenue.
Readers, you may find a fuller account of this situation and Magnet's translative bungling at Awards Daily (here) and at Icons of Fright (here) as well as some excerpts from those articles and their comments by other readers below:

"We’ve been made aware that there are several fans that don’t like the version of the subtitles on the DVD/BR. We had an alternate translation that we went with. Obviously a lot of fans thought we should have stuck with the original theatrical version. We are listening to the fans feedback, and going forward we will be manufacturing the discs with the subtitles from the theatrical version.
"There are no exchanges. We are going to make an alternate version available however. For those that wish to purchase a version with the theatrical subtitles, it will be called out in the tech specs box at the back/bottom of the package where it will list SUBTITLES: ENGLISH (Theatrical), SPANISH (Magnet, as quoted by John Brase, Awards Daily commenter, 30 March 2009 at 10:57am)."

"I agree with you[, Awards Daily]! It is rotten, and those responsible, from the stupid choice to go with the alternate subtitles when the original was perfectly fine to the refusal to replace the 'bad' copies are guilty of bad business practice all around. It makes one wonder how much Magnet/Magnolia understood the film (or should I simply say, 'film') themselves if they made that choice in the first place. They should have known how the alternate subtitles changed so much of the tone of the film. That they didn’t 'get it' until fans complained speaks volumes about them. They just seem to have been thinking about the quick buck they’d make by releasing 'that Swedish vampire movie everyone’s talking about'. It’s very cynical of them (rosieposie, Awards Daily commenter, 30 March 2009 at 12:42pm)."

"Thanks, rosieposie. I wasn’t directing my last comment at you, either. I appreciate you standing up for the issues I’m raising.

"Comments here at consumerist.com are covering all the angles. At the risk of incorrectly translating their intentions, I’ll try to summarize a few key points.

"1) It’s insulting that Magnolia felt it need to simplify an intelligent foreign film for American audiences by giving us a “See Dick Run” version for a 3rd grade reading level.
2) It’s crass for Magnolia to admit “we know fans are unhappy” and in the same press release say “tough luck”
3) In a few days the correct subtitle files will be all over the web (the movie already is — in standard and Blu-ray) so anybody who wants the movie critics saw last year can get the better version for free — while those who paid retail get the inferior version. Way to discourage piracy, Magnolia)
4) Isn’t one of the touted advantages of BD-Live supposed to enable ethernet upgrades and additional features to pre-existing purchases?
5) How many people who got burned buying this DVD will avoid buying Magnolia discs in the future?
6) There’s a disclaimer before pan-and-scan chop-jobs, apologizing for the movie on the screen not being what the filmmakers intended. Shouldn’t the filmmakers sue over having their movie rewritten by an untalented studio hireling?

"here’s an email address
dvd@magpictures.com

"You know, we’re not talking about Bride Wars. This is a Tickle-Me-Elmo version of a brilliant movie that made almost every Top 10 lists last year, as close to a modern classic as anything we’ve seen in months. Is it asking to much to give people a DVD that resembles the same movie a few of us were lucky enough to see in theaters or exclusive screeners? So the rest of the movie-going public can have the same experience (Ryan Adams, Awards Daily moderator, 30 March 2009 at 1:03pm)?"

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