The Translation of Cinema’s Texts: Remakes | October 2016 | Translation Journal

October 2016 Issue

Read, Comment and Enjoy!

Join Translation Journal

Click on the Subscribe button below to receive regular updates.


The Translation of Cinema’s Texts: Remakes

Abstract: Translations of the names of feature films are actively developing a branch of applied translation studies. The material of titles of American film remakes and their translations into the Russian and Latvian languages are considered features of a creation of the original film’s names, and features of the translation remakes. One of the most important trends is the fact that the remake title translations refer to the original films and their titles, so one of the tactics of communicative translation may be formulated as an appeal to the source.

Key words: theory and practice of translation, titles of feature films, film remakes

Film texts, secondary in relation to any previous work – remakes, sequels, and adaptations – quite often are exposed to attacks from the audience (They cannot come up with anything new, they just want profit), although cinematic repetition has more reasons besides the obvious commercial one, i.e. precedent, mythology, universality and therefore recognition of a plot. It should be mentioned that secondariness of the film text can often be related to the question of plot universality in works of art in general.

Many researchers have tried to reveal types of plot, starting with Aristotle, e.g., C. Jung's archetypes, V. Propp’s elements of the subject frame of magic fairy tale, the four universal plots of Jorge Luís Borges: the besieged city, return, search, suicide of God. The English poet and mythologist Robert Graves has offered seven fundamental plots: Cinderella, Achilles, Faust, Tristan, Circe, Romeo and Juliet, and Orpheus. Christopher Booker has also offered seven universal plots: from rags to riches, the adventure, away and back, the comedy, the tragedy, resurrection, and victory over a monster), and Georges Polti has offered 36 universal plots: entreaty, salvation, revenge for a crime, revenge for a relative, the pursued, sudden disaster, the victim, mutiny, daring attempt, abduction, riddle, achievement, hatred of relatives, rivalry between relatives, adultery and murder, madness, fatal imprudence, a love crime out of ignorance, murder of relative out of ignorance, self-sacrifice for the sake of an ideal, self-sacrifice for the sake of relatives, the victim of passion, the necessary sacrifice of a relative, unequal rivalry, violation of marital fidelity, a love crime, disclosure of disgrace of a relative, a love obstacle, love of the enemy, ambition and lust for power, hatred against God, unwinding jealousy/envy, miscarriage of justice, gnawing conscience, lost and found, loss of a relative).

Generally speaking, behind each movie we can see something "former" – the character or the plot inspired by real events in politics (e.g., movies about elections, about Watergate), economy (e.g., movies about an economic crisis), sport (e.g., biographic movies about athletes), culture (e.g., stories of creation of works of art), etc. However, a real situation and its description by some means, e.g., the art word in literature and its description by means of film language – the essence of the phenomenon which comparison cannot always achieve on the simple basis of reflection of the fact and linearity of the relationship. The same basis is not quite acceptable for comparison of the reference and its screen version. "Considering similarity and distinction of the literary text and film text, it is necessary to mention that the book and the movie as carriers of the literary text are not interchangeable". [1: p. 30] The relationship of sequels and remakes, quite obviously, also cannot be recognized as just linear.

Remake literally means "alteration," something that for various reasons repeats certain "passable" film material. The main line of remake title translations is compliance to a source text, i.e. addressing the source film– a movie, a TV series, an animated film or a series, etc. Titles and translations of sources are taken from the most well known databases (,,, or additional databases and sometimes news portals (,,, The total amount of remake titles considered here is 90, including titles and their translations of 32 remakes of American movies, 20 remakes of American serials and one animated serial, two remakes of animated movies, one remake of a documentary, 12 remakes of French movies, oneremake of a German movie, one remake of a Canadian movie, three remakes of Italian movies, six remakes of UK movies, one remake of a UK animated serial, six remakes of Japanese movies, two remakes of Norwegian movies, one remake of a Swedish movie, one remake of an Argentinean movie, two remakes of Thai movies, and one remake of a Korean movie.

Observations show that in the last 20 years, the tendency of remake productions has expanded compared to previous decades, being the conclusion of a book about remakes – Remaking Everything. [3: p. 173] The majority of remakes are based on the same American movies, which is not surprising: a movie of the native culture does not create the need to adapt foreign culture realities, "It is recognized, it meets requirements of ensuring reliability by repeating itself and at the same time being a novelty". [3: p. 4] The Hollywood remake, as a rule, means financial success (madmoney), and this success matches the desire to develop the success: if the movie was financially successful once, then why not repeat this success? [2: p. 30] Therefore, remakes are researched not only from the textual point of view, but also from the commercial. [3]

There are several definitions of remakes (movies based on earlier scenarios; new versions of already existing movies; movies covering several previous movies). [3: p. 1] With such a range of understanding of the remake’s nature, it is necessary to define the concepts by means of which the analysis will be carried out, e.g., it is possible to operate with such concepts like the unit of narration and intertextuality as the remake refers to "the infinite and open opportunities generated by all discursive practices of culture". [3: p. 1] Despite positive factors, remakes quite often have a semi-hidden existence, e.g., their status being disguised with euphemisms like encore, reworking, refitting, retooling, retread, redo, makeover, new version, thereby encouraging some audiences to place a remake in the general category "alteration" and accept the trans-textual reading of the movie. This could have the effect of inviting the audience to compare separate elements or information with limited consideration or to refuse the wide general or cultural analysis as a means to establish the modern value of the movie. [3: p. 147]

As was already noted, the most common group of the translated remake titles are titles of American remakes that address the titles of the American originals. For example, Kiss of Death (Barbet Schroeder, 1995) – Latvian translation Nāves skūpsts, Russian translation[i]Поцелуйсмертиand original movieKiss of Death (Henry Hathaway, 1947) – Nāves skūpsts, Поцелуйсмерти,compared with another remake:The Fiend Who Walked the West (Gordon Douglas, 1958). Other examples are: Flipper (Alan Shapiro, 1996) – Flipers, Флипперand the original movieFlipper (James B. Clark, 1963)Flipers (лтш. Флиппер), Флиппер; The Thomas Crown Affair (John McTiernan, 1999) – Tomasa Krauna afēra, АфераТомасаКраунаand the original movieThe Thomas Crown Affair(Norman Jewison, 1968) Tomasa Krauna afēra, АфераТомасаКрауна; Gone in Sixty Seconds (Dominic Sena, 2000) – Nozust 60 sekundēs, Угнатьза 60 секундand the original movieGone in 60 Seconds(H. B. Halicki, 1974) – Nozust 60 sekundēs,Угнатьза 60 секунд; The Hitcher (Dave Meyers, 2007) – Stopētājs, Попутчикand the original movieThe Hitcher(Robert Harmon, 1986)– Stopētājs, Попутчик.

The compliance of three indicators in the narration is characteristic of the most typical type of remakes: the plot, time and spatial frame (chronotope), system of characters. The success of the original can serve as a criterion for the success of the translation of the remake and the fundamentals of typology: a group of remakes with full compliance with the three indicators (the plot, time and spatial frame), a group with the minimum changes in indicators, and a group with the greatest changes in indicators etc.

Sometimes, titles of American remakes don't address American originals, which could be explained by further relationships between a remake and the original in plot indicators, a chronotope and the system of characters. Examples are the remakes Vanishing Point (Charles Robert Carner, 1997) – Zūdošās robežas and the original movieНеуловимыйVanishing Point (Richard C. Sarafian, 1971)Izgaišanas vieta, Исчезающаяточка; A Perfect Murder (Andrew Davis, 1998) – Ideāla slepkavība, Идеальноеубийствоand the original movieDial M for Murder (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954). Another example is Four Brothers (John Singleton, 2005) – Četri brāļi, Кровьзакровьand the original movieThe Sons of Katie Elder (Henry Hathaway, 1965), СыновьяКэтиЭлдер, no Latvian translation.

If the factor of the popularity of the American movie is a clear criterion, then for movie remakes, the situation is slightly different for other cultures: the financial success of the foreign movie is combined with cultural adaptation, thus, the cultural adaptation can adjust not only time and – especially – spatial indicators (action is often transferred to American cultural soil), but also plot features, leaving the system of characters untouched, such as the ending of the French movie L'Appartement and the American remake Wicker Park.

Let us discuss the following group – remakes of French, Italian, British, and other movies. The majority of non-American originals are French movies. The typical situation for an American remake – the title in translation returning to the French title following the remake itself – is not the most characteristic in this case. Example are: Oscar (John Landis, 1991) – Oskars, and the original movieOscar(Édouard Molinaro, 1967) Oskars, Оскар; Dinner for Shmucks (Jay Roach, 2010) – Vakariņas idiotiem, Ужинспридуркамиand the original movieLe Dîner de Cons (Francis Veber, 1998) –  Vakariņas ar pamuļķi,Ужинспридурком; 13 (Géla Babluani, 2010) – 13, 13and the original movie13 Tzameti (Géla Babluani, 2005) – 13 (Tzameti), Тринадцать. More often, the French base doesn't appear either in the title or in the translations of remakes; what is reflected is in both chronotope differences and even the system of characters.Example are: Paradise (Mary Agnes Donoghue, 1991) – Paradīze, Рай and the original movie Le Grand Chemin (Jean-Loup Hubert, 1987)Гран Шман, no Latvian translation; True Lies (James Cameron, 1994) – Patiesie meli, Правдивая ложь and the original movie La Totale!(Claude Zidi, 1991) – Тотальная слежка, no Latvian translation; Twelve Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995) – 12 pērtiķi, 12 обезьян and the original movie La Jetée(Chris Marker, 1962)Взлетная полоса, no Latvian translation; The Mirror Has Two Faces (Barbra Streisand, 1996) – Spogulis ar divām sejām, У зеркала два лица and the original movie Le Miroir à Deux Faces(André Cayatte, 1958) Призрачное счастье, no Latvian translation; Father’s Day (Ivan Reitman, 1997) – Tēva diena, День отца and the original movie Les Compères(Francis Veber, 1983) –Papucīši, Папаши; Edtv (Ron Howard, 1999) – Eda televīzija, Эд из телевизораand the original movie Louis 19, Le Roi des Ondes(Michel Poulette, 1994), no translations; Wicker Park (Paul McGuigan, 2004) – Vikera parks, Одержимость – and the original movie L'Appartement(Gilles Mimouni, 1996)Dzīvoklis, Квартира.   

Remakes of British movies in general address their base more often. Examples of titles addressing the original are: Village of the Dammed (John Carpenter, 1995) – Nolādēto ciemats, Деревняпроклятых, and the original movie Village of the Damned (Wolf Rilla, 1960)Nolādēto ciemats Деревняпроклятых; Death at a Funeral (Nel laBute, 2010) – Nāve bērēs, Смертьнапохоронахand the original movie Death at a Funeral (Frank Oz, 2007)Nāve bērēs, Смертьнапохоронах; Last Holiday (Wayne Wang, 2006) – Pēdējais Atvaļinājums, Последнийотпускand the original movie Last Holiday (Henry Cass, 1950) Pēdējais Atvaļinājums, Последнийотпуск; Mad Money (Callie Khouri, 2008) – Trakā nauda, Шальныеденьгиand the original movie Hot Money(Terry Winsor, 2001)Горячиеденьги, no Latvian translation. Finally, there are also titles which don't return to the British original; changes of chronotope, plot details and the system of characters are characteristic. An example is The Ladykillers (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, 2004) – Nāvi večiņai, Игрыджентельменовand the original movie The Ladykillers (Alexander Mackendrick, 1955) – Kā nogalināt vecu lēdiju, Убийцыледи.

Movies with an Italian base address the original completely as well as partially, for example, Scent of a Woman (Martin Brest, 1992) – Sievietes smarža, Запахженщиныand the original movie Profumo di Donna (Dino Risi, 1974) Sievietes smarža (лтш. Запах женщины), Запах женищны. There are also translations which partially address the Italian base, for example, The Last Kiss (Tony Goldwyn, 2006) – Atvadu skūpsts, Прощальный поцелуй and the original movie L'ultimo Bacio (Gabriele Muccino, 2001) – Pēdējais skūpst, Последний поцелуй. Finally, there are also titles which don't address the Italian base, thus, indicators of a chronotope and a plot change, for example, The Heartbreak Kid (Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, 2007) – Manu Murgu Meitene, Девушкамоихкошмаровand the original movie Luna di Miele in Tre (Elaine May, 1972) – Медовыймесяцвтроем,no Latvian translation.

Canadian, German, Japanese, Thai, Norwegian, and Swedish bases are realized once or twice. Remakes of Canadian movies include: Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (Duwayne Dunham, 1993) – Mājupceļš: Neticamais ceļojums, Дорогадомой: Невероятноепутешествиеand the original movie The Incredible Journey (Fletcher Markle, 1963)Невероятноепутешествие (no Latvian translation). A remake of a German movie is Loving Annabelle (Katherine Brooks, 2006) – Mīlot Anabellu, ПолюбитьАннабельand the original movie Mädchen in Uniform (Leontine Sagan, Carl Froelich. 1931) – Девушкивуниформе, Girls in Uniform. Remakes of Japanese movies are: Last Man Standing (Walter Hill, 1996) – Līdz pēdējam vīram, Герой – одиночкаand the original movie Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa, 1961)Miessargs, Телохранитель; Shall we Dance? (Peter Chelsom, 2004) – Padejosim?, Давайтепотанцуемand the original movie Shall we Dansu? (Masayuki Suo, 1996)Padejosim?, Давайтепотанцуем?; Eight Below (Frank Marshall, 2006) – Pamesti sniegos,Белыйплен(Антарктика) and the original movie Nankyoku Monogatari / Antarctica (Koreyoshi Kurahara, 1983) – Антарктическаяповесть, no Latvian translation. Remakes of Thai movies are: Bangkok Dangerous (Oxide Pang Chun, 2008) – Bīstamā Bangkoka , ОпасныйБангкокand the original movie Bangkok Dangerous(The Pang Brothers, 1999) – Bīstamā Bangkoka, ОпасныйБангкок; Shutter (Masayuki Ochiai, 2008) – Pagātnesrēgi, Фантомыand the original movie Shutter (Banjong Pisanthanakun & Parkpoom Wongpoom, 2004) – Pagātnes rēgi, Затвор. Remakes of Norwegian movies are: Head Above Water (Jim Wilson, 1996) – Galvu virs ūdens, Какудержатьсянаплавуand the original movie Hodet over vannet(Nils Gaup, 1993) – Голованадводой, no Latvian translation; Pathfinder (Marcus Nispel, 2007) – Ceļvedis, Следопытand the original movie Pathfinder/ Ofelas (Nils Gaup, 1987) – Pēddzinis, Проводник. Remakes of Swedish movies are: The Last House on the Left (Dennis Iliadis, 2009) – Pēdējā māja pa kreisi, Последнийдомслеваand the original movie The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven, 1972) Последнийдомслева, no Latvian translation, and the original movie The Virgin Spring(Ingmar Bergman, 1960) –Jaunavu avots, Девичийисточник.Remakes to Argentinean movies are: Criminal (Gregory Jacobs, 2004) – Noziedznieks, Аферистыand the original movie Nine Queens / Nueve Reinas(Fabián Bielinsky, 2000) – Deviņas karalienes, Девятькоролев. Remakes of Korean movies are: My Sassy Girl (Yann Samuell, 2008) – Mana bezkaunīgā meitene, Дряннаядевчонкаand the original movie My Sassy Girl / That Bizarre Girl (Kwak Jae-yong, 2001) Mana bezkaunīgā meitene, Дряннаядевчонка.

Thus, indicators of the national identity of the original, and also the narration are important for the translations of remakes: plot features, chronotope and system of characters. The analysis of the formation of remake titles shows the existence of active communicative tactics addressing the original which are also realized in the communicative tactics of the translation of the remake title.


  1. Слышкин, Г.Г., Ефремова, М.А. Кинотекст (опыт лингвокультурного анализа): монография. М.: Водолей Publishers, 2004.
  1. Dillon, S. The Solaris Effect // Art & Artifice in Contemporary American Film. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2006.
  2. Verevis, C. Film Remakes: monograph. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press, 2006.

[i]Here and following - the first is a Latvian translation, the second is a Russian translation.

Log in

Log in