Mm Whatcha Say?

The rise of home viewing has led to an increase in the use of open captions, even when the viewer is fluent in the language spoken in the movie.

Besides the functional reasons for this decision — understanding the dialogue through less-than-ideal speakers, screenshot memeability, etc. — Ireland’s Oscars-shortlisted The Quiet Girl (subtitled in theaters because, though its Irish dialect is technically English, it’s a different species from American English) made me realize an artistic upside to the OCs.

When watching a movie without captions, it’s hard to evaluate the dialogue separate from an actor’s delivery of their lines, and vice versa. The writing and how it’s performed become conflated as one entity, even though they’re two distinct components.

Returning to one of my favorite artistic formulations: open captions create a visual relationship between what’s said and how it’s said, by tangibly dividing the two. When we can see the words blankly on screen, it may provoke us to analyze the gap between how the unadorned writing resonates, and how differently it hits through the mutational vehicle of how it’s performed.

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