VO or VF? In France, titles of films with variable translation

March 13, 2023 by No Comments

► Why the title of Everything Everywhere All at Once hasn’t it been translated?

At the 95th Academy Awards, the feature film Everything Everywhere All at Once was the big winner, winning seven statuettes under the nose and beard of Steven Spielberg (The Fabelmans) and James Cameron (Avatar 2).

The film tells the story of a mother of Chinese origin, played by Michelle Yeoh, and propelled into the parallel dimensions of the “multiverse”. Released in March 2022 in the United States, it had good word-of-mouth fueled by social networks, earning nearly a hundred million dollars in revenue.

WAPPas it has been nicknamed on social networks which have taken up the initials of the words of the title, has not been translated into French. “This French translation sounded strange and we preferred to keep the original title, in particular to take advantage of its notoriety in the United States”explains Tristan du Laz, director of Originals Factory, the French distributor.

Another reason given: the target age group corresponds to a “fundamentally young, connected and urban audience”, summarizes Tristan du Laz. He could understand the original title in English without any problem.

► What are the strategies envisaged for the translation of a title?

Several are envisaged: the translation of the title into French, keeping the original title or even adapting a new title in English. Distributors make their choice in agreement with their marketing department in order to “sell” the film as well as possible to potential targets.

They often show an abysmal lack of imagination. As proof, many films find themselves decked out in the same adjectives to entice viewers.

► What are the obligations in terms of title translation?

None in France… unlike in Quebec! The Canadian province can count on the Charter of the French language, also called “Bill 101”, making the language of Molière the only official idiom of Quebec.

Everything Everywhere All at Once therefore becomes Everything, everywhere, all at once. And here is Molière’s affront to the tongue repaired!

In France, only one law relating to the use of the French language exists: the “Toubon law”. The latter prescribes translation obligations in audiovisual media and advertising. Cinematographic works escape it. This explains why distributors have free rein in the choice of film titles.

A few exceptions to the rule should be noted. A film that adapts a book must keep its title, like AT the West, nothing newadaptation of the famous novel about the First World War by Erich Maria Remarque, another winner of the 2023 Oscars.


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