Film titles translation is culturally and linguistically, as it concerns both the connection between two languages, and the connection between the cultural worlds they represent.
Translation became a fundamental issue a few decades ago, when globalization multiplied the relations and the exchanges among different cultures, and translation theorists felt the subsequent need of creating a new field of translation studies they named titrologie.
Titles translation theories do not claim to establish translation norms: they rather seem to describe the way in which translation is actually turned into practice.
The analysis of the history of Anglo-American film titles translation in Italy shows how deep the influence of political, cultural, social and economic factors in our nation has been.
Italy’s attention to Anglo-American culture has shifted from an imperialistic/defensive behaviour to an opposite trans-discursive/defective one, turning to the ‘alien’ culture and importing elements from it. But the studies on the dominant strategies adopted in these very last years lead to the conclusion that the attention is now tending to focus on superficial and standardized elements, rather than on cultural ones. Cases of transliteration reveal the will to copy the linguistic pattern of a source-text, despite of the urge of expressing the connotations suggested by the English form and of keeping their early purposes once transferred into another linguistic-cultural system.
The same could be said both for other forms of adaptation, such as the creation of a brand new English title replacing the original (English or non-English) one, and when the original title is unfaithfully adapted in italian.
The extreme defective attitude in Italy is strongly linked to another factor that is determining: market and its rules. In a case extreme such as The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, translated into Italian with Se mi lasci ti cancello, the new title has been conceived as a comedy title, with the intention of inciting the audience to expect a movie like those previously translated with the same ‘format’. The translation relies on a seductive format and erases the original contents and intentions suggested by the source text.
Cases of ‘non-translation’ (that is, when translation is unfaithful and unrespectful to the original text connotations) do not seem to lead toward full subtitling in Italy: while subtliting is a trend to foreignisation (a method which privileges the source-culture) in Italy the tendence of ignoring the source-culture or of focusing only on its superficial and standardized elements, seems to be dominant. The interview to the Eagle Pictures’ marketing director helps to realize that titles translation in Italy is increasingly being concerned about marketing rather than culture, since the title is in itself a spot aiming to sell the product.
The main purposes of translation should be to respect the functions of the source-text instead of creating new ones that fit the market of the country in which the movie is sold. Films titles translation in Italy is therefore the evidence of a wider dominant trend that deprives translation of its cultural features. In our country faithful translations are optional (they depend on the will of marketing operators ) rather than mandatory.
Translation is not therefore simply a problem of Linguistics or communication: it does not come up from words but from the encounter of different cultures. Translation tendencies create models and stereotypes through which the foreign culture is perceived; the text translated is then to be considered as an integral part of the world. Likewise, translation is to be considered a mediator between the opposite sides of a boundary.
The process of translation as cross-cultural transfer is determined by the degree of prestige that either the source or the target cultures have, as well as by their relations. In the specific field of films translations, the United States are presently dominating the movie industry, and consequently the English language, especially in its most simplified forms. This kind of language has become the most used in the present process of globalisation, both in the movie industry and in cultural environments.
The problems linked to titles translation could then be used like a magnifying glass to better analyse the various aspects of a linguistic, cultural system, and to focus on its weaknesses.
To conclude, to solve translation problems in Italy does not simply involve curing a symptom: this could represent only one of the possible starting points to
face the main problem effectively. As a consequence, a more genuine communication among cultures would be established and Art would be given back its stolen dimension.