Saturday, January 10, 2009

Jason watches Valkyrie

And the crazy Scientologist pipsqueak can...actually bring it. There's a fundamental, almost insurmountable challenge to making a thriller about a true historical event where absolutely everyone knows how it must end. You'd think there can't possibly be any suspense, so it's a testament to some fine filmmaking that there's real tight tension there, and for a moment you can fool yourself into believing the plot to assassinate Hitler and take over his government might work this time.

So yeah, it's actually a pretty good film, but I want to harp on one thing. There's another fundamental challenge in filming a movie for an English-speaking audience that takes place in a foreign land. How do you deal with the language? There are generally three choices you could make (in order of my preference): speak the foreign language and subtitle it, speak English without an accent, or speak accented English. Accented English standing in for a foreign language didn't use to bug me, but the more times I see the first two options work well, the third option bugs me more. There's no reason for an actor to speak in accented English unless the character is a person speaking English with an accent. Now Valkyrie starts with an interesting way to address this problem. Tom Cruise as Col. Stauffenberg is writing in his journal, and a voice-over is speaking his words in German, with subtitles. It slowly morphs to Tom Cruise's voice in (unaccented) English. It's a clever way to tell the audience English = German in this movie, and we're not bothering with accents. Inside, I applauded that, thought it was a clever way to approach it, and I hope it will catch on. My problem is that while most of the characters speak unaccented English, a few (most notably David Bamber as Hitler, but most egregiously the judge at the end) speak in accented English. It left me confused. Did Bryan Singer not adequately instruct everyone to speak without and accent? Or is accented English standing in for accented German? Did Hitler have an accent from his native Austria, and is that what's being depicted in the film? I'm confused.

But yeah, otherwise the film was pretty good.

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