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Zhen Huan: crossing the pond, landing with a thud

《甄嬛传》飘洋过海 重磅登陆北美市场.jpg


There was a palpable dull thud of disappointment that accompanied the return of the imperial entourage of Zhen Huan to her homeland.

甄嬛以及众多小主的回归却让人明显地感到一阵阵的失望。 

It followed a couple years of hushed excitement as Chinese fans were fed tidbits about their proud concubine who was supposed to conquer the high ground of the North American market.

近一两年来,中国的《甄嬛传》的粉丝时不时地了解到他们引以为傲的小主要占领北美电视剧高地,并窃喜不已。

Zhen Huan is, of course, the title character of The Legend of Zhen Huan, a 2011 television series that swept China off its feet and later took other Asian countries by storm.

甄嬛是电视剧《甄嬛传》的主角——这部2011年的电视剧风靡中国,之后又席卷亚洲其他国家。 

Two years ago, it was reported that HBO, a premium cable service headquartered in the United States, was going to air it in North America after some modification. Now, a condensed version that provides English subtitles but no dubbing has finally been made available on Netflix for online streaming.

两年前,有报道称,美国纽约的付费有线电视网HBO将会在北美播放编辑版《甄嬛传》。现在,《甄嬛传》的精简版在Netflix网站在线播出。该版仅配有英文字幕,没有英语配音。

This version, highly anticipated as a milestone in China's cultural foray overseas, has been widely panned by its home audience.

这个精简版被视为中国文化进军海外市场的一个里程碑备而受瞩目,但是却引发中国观众的广泛批评。 

Retitled Empresses in the Palace, the American version has been shortened from its original 76 episodes at 45 minutes each, to six 90-minute episodes. The quick pacing threw off many native viewers, who are accustomed to a more leisurely daytime-soap-style narrative rhythm. (Chinese TV stations would run two or three episodes every day.)

美版《甄嬛传》从原来的76集,每集45分钟的长度精简为6集,每集90分钟,剧名改为Empresses in the Palace。每集过快的节奏令美国观众很是不满,因为他们习惯了更加轻松的日间肥皂剧式的叙述节奏。(中国的电视台每天播2-3集) 

I did not finish the full-length version and found the truncated one not difficult to follow. What's lost, I believe, are the interesting setups and pauses that illuminate the Chinese art of storytelling. Much of the plot is still there. It is the flavor that was sacrificed.

我没有看完完整版,但是觉得精简版也不难理解。我认为精简版丢失的是一些有趣的情节设置及停顿,这是中国叙事艺术的精华。大部分情节还是保留了,只是少了那种味道。

The American edition uses the framework of the Empress Dowager in her senior years reminiscing at the beginning and the end of each episode, hinting at what's to come and recapping the key points. This device, not used in the original, is culturally understandable but artistically mediocre.

美版在每一集的开头和结尾都采取甄嬛在晚年回忆的方式进行铺陈,暗示接下来的情节,概括主要情节。原版并未采用这种叙事方式。精简版这样设置在文化方面可以理解,但艺术表现平平。

What puzzles me is the two new songs for the opening and end credits. They were written in English, but sung by Chinese with an uncomfortable accent. They were obviously designed to appeal to an English-speaking base, but do not jibe with the Chinese dialogue.

最令我费解的是新的片头和片尾曲。歌词是英文的,但却是由中国歌手以感觉怪怪的口音演唱的。显然是想用这两首歌来吸引外国人,但却与中文对白很不相符。

Speaking of the dialogue, the English translation, picked apart by some Chinese, is too literal for my taste. I can imagine a typical American hit by a flurry of royal ranks, addresses and greetings, even multiple names and titles for the same person. The first half hour must be a swamp to wade through, very much like my experience of getting through a Tolstoy tome with its endless inflections of names transliterated into lengthy Chinese.

说到对白,在我看来,其英文翻译太过于直译化,更别提一些中国观众的批评了。我能想象出一个普通美国人会被宫庭等级搞晕了,如尊位等级、称谓、问候语甚至同一个人有多个名字和头衔。前半个小时必定是名字的熟悉梳理等级,就像是我阅读托尔斯泰的大部头巨作时,那些冗长的音译中文名字常令我费解。

I see the choice of verbatim translation as an effort for conveying exotica. It is fairly competent, with no error that I could detect, but fails to rise above words or capture the essence of the language.

逐字逐句的翻译可以体现异国情调,这些翻译是相当称职,并没有错,但是却很难摆脱字句的束缚,捕捉到语言的精华。

A cultural product usually crosses over to a foreign territory first by an emphasis on the commonalities. But whether inside or outside China, the temptation to sell it for the differences is just too great. Sure, the sumptuous sets and costumes are a big attraction, but the narrative technique has become-how shall I put it?-a bit anglicized, which is necessary for cultural export. Judging by the responses, this legend, which, contrary to the claim of the English trailer, is totally fictitious, has departed from China but not yet landed on American shores.

一种文化产品跨洋过海来到异国他乡,通常首先要突出它的文化共性。然而,不论在国内还是国外,都主要是以文化的个性为卖点。当然,豪华布景和服装都具有很大的吸引力,但在叙事技巧上略显英语化,这是文化产品出口的必要手段。从观众反应来看,这部剧完全是虚构的,与美版预告片宣称的不相符,因此,这部影片虽已从中国市场走出去,但是还未真正得到美国市场的接受。

2016-06-24

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