Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wallander speaking Swenglish

I watched the first episode of the British-produced Inspector Wallander series a couple of days ago - hailing from southern Sweden myself, it would have been something of a sacrilege not to throw a glance at this televised transformation of Swedish dejection and gloom gone pop culture. I once read three of the Wallander novels (by Henning Mankell, one of Sweden's most economically successful literary exports) and wasn't all that impressed. I must say, however, that I thoroughly enjoyed Kenneth Brannagh's take on the Swedish sleuth - especially, I loved the almost romanticising Scanian landscape-views that filled the screen, with trees, skies, seas and rape-fields (a word which in English creates an unintentional and - given the story - very fitting and morbid pun).

All of the show seemed very Swedish - the furniture even. But of course, the actors were very British, and so were their gestures and looks. And they spoke English. Which is weird.

I know - the movie version of Gorky Park is in English, as are the Italian parts of Hannibal (sadly). And I suppose we're all tired to death of WWII-movies wiz gerrmans speeeeeaking English instedt of Deutsch ("Ja, myne Fewrer" etc.). But English it was. Are subtitles that hard?

Well, one adjusted, and after a while it wasn't even strange to hear rural Scanians speaking cockney (or RP, for that matter). But the names!! When Mr. Jackson did his Lord of the Rings he hired language coaches to get the Elvish right - for the sake of the purists. Couldn't Branagh & Co get someone to teach them to at least stress the Swedish names correctly? It's pronounced Vallánder, not Wollender, for Supreme Being's sake! And Svedin is Svedéen, not Svédin. But I guess even I have to accept the difficulty in pronouncing the surname Nyberg, which in actual Swedish has not only a) the vowel "y", sort of like French "u" in "lune", and b) the auslaut -rg (sounding like "ry", sort of) but also the Swedish tonal grave accent, which would sound bizarre in an English piece of prosody.

But the others - I mean: Vallánder! How hard can it be?

And yes, I'm a purist. But languages are my thing, and I'm Swedish, so I have the right ;-)

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