‘The Killing’ will mind its mouth

When the second series of the popular Danish programme airs in the UK this weekend, it might read a bit differently

HIV treatment: the sooner the better (photo: iStock)
November 18th, 2011 4:27 pm| by admin
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Responding to a viewer complaint, the BBC will apply a different approach to its translation of expletives for the second series of the hit Danish television programme ‘The Killing’ (Forbrydelsen), reports British TV magazine The Radio Times.

The gritty police drama, which has received rave reviews from critics around the world and a BAFTA TV international prize this year, is known for its realistic, straightforward language. But a problem arose with the first series when the British company responsible for subtitling the show  almost uniformly translated every level of obscenity as “fuck” – in fact, there were 25 percent more uses of the word than in the original Danish script.

This prompted the BBC to send a memo to Voice and Script International (VSI) that stated: “Going forward, the consensus here is that we should keep an eye on the number of expletives being added. Where there are a number of options of which word to use, err on the side of caution, and use the less strong word.”

Simon Chilcott, the editor of programme acquisitions at the BBC, said: “If there are suddenly lots more uses of the f-word in one episode, we have to check itÂ’s consistent with the script and the rest of the series,” as well as the character’s personality.

RadioTimes.com’s source at VSI defended the subtitler’s work. “Translation is subjective to some extent; you have to use language that best fits the tone of the programme,” he said. “The Old Norse word ‘faenÂ’ literally refers to the Devil, but can now also mean ‘bastardÂ’, ‘shitÂ’ or ‘fuckÂ’.” 

Chilcott admitted that translating subtitles is not an exact science. “The translator [has to put] some of their own voice into the subtitles,” he said. “Often, a direct translation would be awkward and stilted.”

An official BBC spokesperson also said: “The important thing is that the subtitles represent the tone and sentiment of the dialogue as accurately as possible. At no point did the BBC ask for any strong language to be removed or toned down” in the second series, which is set to debut this weekend.

For now, whether the subtitles are more accurate and less ‘offensive’ simply remains to be read on screen.

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