Sunday Matinee: Midnight FM

The trouble with subtitles.

When I first started watching foreign movies one of my biggest obstacles was the subtitles. It is impossible to watch movies dubbed – the entire intent of the film is destroyed by dubbing. Often the effect is extremely comical which really doesn’t work when the movie is suppose to be a thriller. But reading and watching takes some skill. I have watched enough subtitled movies now that I barely notice that I’m reading. However language barriers are still present even in translations.

Not everything translates into English exactly. It’s an arrogant assumption that every word can translate into English and vice versa. That said I have read some bad subs. The literal intent of what is being said comes through sometimes and it usually makes no sense. Which brings me to today’s movie.

A friend bought me a movie for watching his house while he was gone on vacation. He bought me a Region 3 Korean DVD in Little Chinatown. The employee told him is was an excellent film.

I have reason to believe that the film might be a bootleg. First – it’s a newish movie and it looks like it isn’t out on DVD until the end of this month. Second – the subtitles. The film is called Midnight FM although the subtitles and the packaging call the film Late Night FM.

The movie stars Soo-ae as a female late night DJ and Yoo Ji-tae (the bad guy from Oldboy) as the bad guy. The plot appears to about Yoo Ji-tae taking Soo-ae’s daughters hostage from some reason and she keeps working at the radio station talking on the air, taking phone calls from him and freaking out a lot. Then there’s a car chase.

Here’s a sample of some of the subtitles. “There are some police officers for selfish Become the villain And some bad Due to time Mituzhifan.” “She is a small Tada.” “Terror is not terror is up to you.” “Magellan’s fleet is very strong.”

A quick look at Wikipedia’s plot summary and it describes the film as “Ko Sun-Young is a popular TV announcer and Midnight DJ.She deciced to quit her job because one of her daughters has to take a heart sugery in USA.On her last day of work, her sister Ah-young watched her nieces at her apartment.Suddenly, Sun-young received a call by a man named Han Dong-Soo who claims to be her fan.Dong-Soo is a mad guild who killed a lot of people,he forced Sun-Young to follow his command by playing a list of songs written by him.If Sun-Young doesn’t do what he wants or calls the police, he will kill all of her family.” Not sure what a mad guild is but it does clear up a few things.

It’s kind of tough to enjoy and appreciate a movie if you don’t even realize that the main character is being forced to play a song list on the radio and that one of her daughter’s needs heart surgery. Most of the tension and thrills are diluted when you don’t realize what’s happening and are busy trying to figure out what Magellan’s fleet has to do with anything. Heck it’s tough to tell if the film is good or bad. I need to find a real copy with real subtitles and watch this film again.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka has spent most of his life watching movies and reading comic books. He has decided to use this vast knowledge for evil instead of good.