Film Title Translation into French, a few Methods and Strategies





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I.2. Lengthening out (Etoffement)



Here, the matter is to bring additional information to the original title, an explanation or a phrase that will catch the attention of the potential spectators. While the original title is generally more enigmatic, the French title gives away some additional connotations.
Examples:



Year


Original title


French title


Director(s)

1945

Mildred Pierce

Le roman de Mildred Pierce

Michael Curtiz

1951

The African Queen

L’odyssée de l’African Queen

John Huston

1964

Marnie

Pas de printemps pour Marnie

Alfred Hitchcock

1968

Rosemary’s Baby

Un bébé pour Rosemary

Roman Polanski

1974

The Conversation

Conversation secrète

Francis Ford Coppola

1975

Jaws

Les dents de la mer

Steven Spielberg

1976

Carrie

Carrie au bal du diable

Brian De Palma

1980

Airplane!

Y a-t-il un pilote dans l’avion ?

Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

1988

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Qui veut la peau de Roger Rabbit ?

Robert Zemeckis

1993

The Piano

La leçon de piano

Jane Campion

1995

Twelve Monkeys

L'Armée des douze singes

Terry Gilliam

1997

Bean

Bean, le film le plus catastrophe

Mel Smith

1997

Gattaca

Bienvenue à Gattaca

Andrew Niccol

1998

Saving Private Ryan

Il faut sauver le soldat Ryan

Steven Spielberg

1999

Being John Malkovich

Dans la peau de John Malkovich

Spike Jonze

1999

Notting Hill

Coup de foudre à Notting Hill

Roger Michell

2002

Mr. Deeds

Les aventures de Mister Deeds

Steven Brill

2003

Cold Mountain

Retour à Cold Mountain

Anthony Minghella

2005

Brokeback Mountain

Le secret de Brokeback Mountain

Ang Lee

2005

Capote

Truman Capote

Bennett Miler

2005

Elizabethtown

Rencontres à Elizabethtown

Cameron Crowe

2007

1408

Chambre 1408

Mikael Håfström

2007

Beowulf

La légende de Beowulf

Robert Zemeckis

2007

Darjeeling Limited

A bord du Darjeeling Limited

Wes Anderson

2007

Knocked Up

En cloque, mode d’emploi

Judd Apatow

2008

Bolt

Volt, star malgré lui

Byron Howard, Chris Williams

2008

In Bruges

Bons baisers de Bruges

Martin McDonagh

2009

9

Numéro 9

Shane Acker

2009

The Lost World

Le monde (presque) perdu

Brad Silberling

2009

Zombieland

Bienvenue à Zombieland

Ruben Fleischer


I will now present a study of some of the most interesting titles:

  • Le roman de Mildred Pierce

The screenplay was based upon the 1941 novel Mildred Pierce written by James M. Cain. The movie kept the original title of the novel. The film shows Mildred's questioning by police. She relates her life story to the policemen in flashbacks. The addition of "Le roman" is intended to complete the original title that consists of only a female name. The French words help suggesting that Mildred Pierce is actually a name. Indeed, Mildred is a rather uncommon English first name.

But there is no link with a hypothetic Mildred’s novel in the story. In my opinion, a better similar diegetically-inspired title would have been "L’histoire de Mildred Pierce", "La vie de Mildred Pierce", or "Les confessions de Mildred Pierce". A REVOIR

  • Pas de printemps pour Marnie

Here is another title consisting of a character’s name based on the eponymous novel written in 1961 by Winston Graham. This time it is a female first name. The French title ("No Spring for Marnie") adds a sense of fatality and mystery that goes along with the genre of the film (suspense, thriller). However, A COMPLETER

  • Un bébé pour Rosemary

The French title can be translated as such: "A baby for Rosemary". It is a bit different than the original one and is actually the same title used for the book in France. A COMPLETER

  • Les dents de la mer

This film from 1975 was based on Peter Benchley’s novel from the year before. The working title was "Stillness in the Water" which can be translated by "Calme dans l’eau" ou "Le calme de l’océan". The French title reveals that the film (and the novel as well) is about a dangerous sea creature. A faithful translation would have been "Mâchoires" or, to be closer to the 1975 French title, "Les mâchoires de l’océan". But the French title is very catchy, and Steven Spielberg himself said that he preferred Les dents de la mer than Jaws.

  • L'Armée des douze singes

The script was inspired by the French short science fiction film La jetée (1962) directed by Chris Marker. The French title is directly taken from the film. The Army of the Twelve Monkeys is the secret organization linked with the virus. The Army of the Twelve Monkeys is inspired by "The Magic of Oz" (1919) written by L. Frank Baum, in which the King convinces twelve monkeys to become his soldiers.

It is a rather good title choice in my opinion, since it uses the full expression from which is taken the original title. An alternative title could have been simply the faithful translation: "Douzes singes".

  • Bienvenue à Gattaca

This movie was written and directed by Andrew Niccol. Gattaca is the name of the Aerospace Corporation around which the film is centered. The addition of "Bienvenue à" introduces the fact that it is a place and also that we, as spectators, are about to discover it. By doing so, the French title does not give away any diegetic information, which respects Niccol’s intentions. However, it may connote a different kind of genre.

  • Dans la peau de John Malkovich

The French title can be translated by "Being inside John Malkovich’s skin". The faithful translation "Être John Malkovich" looses the idea of being inside Malkovich’s body. But since the movie’s main genre is fantasy, the faithful translation can easily work. The French title is taken from a line of the film stated by John Cusack’s character: "Being inside another skin".

  • Coup de foudre à Notting Hill

The French title reveals the genre of the film: a romance. The original title is an area in London. Since most of the French audience is not familiar with this place, the title is completed by "à" which states that it is a place, and by "Coup de foudre" which unveils a love story. A faithful title adaptation could have been "Notting Hill, Londres" or "Le quartier de Notting Hill". A REVOIR

  • A bord du Darjeeling Limited

The Darjeeling Limited is the name of the train that the protagonists take to travel through India. The French title can be translated into: "Aboard the Darjeeling Limited". This indicates that the action is located either on a boat, a train or a plane. Darjeeling is an Indian town, famous for its black tea production. One can easily understand that The Darjeeling Limited is the name of an Indian vehicle.

  • En cloque, mode d’emploi

The French title can be translated as such: "Knocked Up: a User's Guide". The slang expression is kept in the French title "en cloque", and "mode d’emploi" was added to increase the comic effect. This last addition is due to a trend certainly started by Georges Perec's novel La Vie mode d'emploi (1980). This appears in two French films: Adultère, mode d’emploi by Christine Pascal (1995) and Hommes, femmes, mode d’emploi by Claude Lelouch (1996). It is to notice that two American movies had a similarly chosen French title: Mère-fille, mode d'emploi (Georgia Rule, 2007) and Maman mode d'emploi (Motherhood, 2009). Concerning Judd Apatow’s movie, a faithful translation would have worked well in my opinion: "En cloque".

  • Volt, star malgré lui

This movie is aimed at a young audience. Thus, the French title needs to be easily understandable. While the name of the main character "Volt" is a good translation (it allows keeping both the meaning and the sound of it), the juxtaposed sentence divulges essential information about the plot and that can spoil the opening scene of the movie. In my view, selecting "Volt" as the official French title would have been a better choice.

  • Bons baisers de Bruges

This title is directly inspired from the James Bond movie From Russia with Love (1963) by Terence Young (adapted from Ian Fleming’s book). This sentence is an idiom usually placed at the end of a letter. It was translated by a close French idiom: Bons baisers de Russie. The French distributors decided to adapt this title with the Belgium city of Bruges. Instead of translating faithfully In Bruges by "A Bruges", they add the reference to James Bond and thus to action and thriller movies. It should be noted that a French action movie (a Luc Besson's production) was released in 2010 with the international title From Paris with Love (directed by Pierre Morel).

  • Numéro 9

In the year 2009, two films were released with the respective names Nine (Rob Marshal) and 9 (Shane Acker). The first one was released with the same name and the second one was completed by "Numéro". The original title is the name of the main character 9 as it is written on his back. In France they added a transparent term in order to avoid possible confusion. A COMPLETER synthèse de remarques plus théoriques.

  • Le monde (presque) perdu A COMPLETER

The faithful translation of this title would be "Le monde perdu".

  • Bienvenue à Zombieland

Gattaca A COMPLETER

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