Films in Italy are not always what they seem…or at least what they sound like. Although the Italian cinema is a small powerhouse of quality movies, the country also imports large amounts of foreign films, particularly the big Hollywood blockbusters whose release not only Americans, but also citizens of the world anxiously await. Let’s take Superman: Man of Steel, for example. The previews have been circulating the Italian peninsula, and when the big day comes for the Italian premier (or anteprima) at Sicily’s Taormina Film Festival on June 20, the lights will dim, the credits will roll, and the first words uttered will not be the sturdy sounds of English, but the musical notes of the Italian language.
So did Henry Cavill and Russell Crowe learn Italian for the debut italiano of the highly anticipated film? Not likely. Unlike most foreign movies that feature in the States with English subtitles, Italy prefers dubbing their foreign films, and has built up an entire industry to provide for this. This means that some of the world’s biggest hits, including Gone With the Wind (Via col Vento), Titanic, and Pirates of the Caribbean (Pirati dei Caraibi) were experienced by Italy not with the voices of Clark Gable, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the kooky accent of Johnny Depp, but with the native-sounding Italian of an entirely different person.
Ask an Italian about this phenomenon, and they will proudly show as much allegiance to the dubber than to the actor him or herself. Italians know these people, who often consistently dub their actors, and love them. How do they watch Brad Pitt without his smooth yet rugged voice? Replaced with Sandro Acerbo, and Italians are happy. And George Clooney’s sultry sounds give way to Francesco Pannofino, who believe it or not also dubs Denzel Washington, Kurt Russel, and Antonio Banderas.
Although this may sound (no pun intended) like the viewers are getting a completely different experience, there are in fact times when dubbers get the voice right on. Check out these two trailers for Gladiator. We’d say Luca Wards gets very close to Russell Crowe’s rustic tones:
Italian Version (for Russell Crowe’s voice, fast forward to 1:00:
But then we’ve got the English/Italian lost in translation that inevitably happens with others, as in this clip from Eat, Pray, Love (Mangia,Prega, Ama). Julia Roberts doesn’t quite sound like the Georgia girl that Americans have grown used to:
But whether the doppiatore greatly resembles the voice of the original actor or not, it doesn’t stop Italians from enjoying a slew of foreign films. In fact, this week’s Taormina Film Festival is known to be one of the “tests” of the reception of foreign films in Italy, and has been in full swing welcoming greats such as Meg Ryan, Russel Crowe, Jeremy Irons, Rocco Papaleo and Giovanni Veronesi at the city’s Antico Teatro, which also happens to be lauded as one of the most well-preserved ancient Greek theaters in existence.
The town of Taormina itself is a small city with a rich history, built in the cliffs of the eastern Sicilian coast about 45-minutes drive from nearby Catania. Not only does it enchant VIP and casual visitors today with its quaint streets, exceptional restaurants brimming with fresh seafood, high-class hotels, villas, and resort options, but the city has drawn people for its entire existence, including royalty, celebrities, and especially the famed German author, Goethe (known by some as Germany’s Dante). In fact, Goethe made this location so popular with Germans that it is not uncommon to see German signage throughout the city.
Are you planning your romantic getaway to a historically significant, culinarily enticing, yet strikingly beautiful Italian vacation spot? Try our package that ports you to Taormina and the Aeolian Islands; and if you time it right, your visit to the Antico Teatro might include more famous sights than just the theater’s ruins.
Know any really good, bad Italian dubbed films or translated titles? Been to Taormina? Share your experiences below!