06/30/2011 01:31 pm ET Updated Aug 30, 2011

Subtitles Please!

Some years ago I went and saw the movie Derailed with my sister in a cinema in Italy. Derailed stars three famous actors in the main roles: an American (Jennifer Aniston), a British (Clive Owen), and a French (Vincent Cassel). I didn't particularly love the film: it was OK, but what struck me was that everybody in it was Italian: the movie was dubbed, as usual.

In Italy we have always dubbed movies: a long lasting tradition that we share with the Spaniards and the French. It didn't bother me while I lived there, but now it's really strange. My friends comment, Yes, but Italian actors who dub are very good. They were very good. They are still skillful enough to end their sentence when the actors on the screen finish theirs, but they are not good actors anymore. They used to come from theater and be great, but now they come from a school specialized only in dubbing and their voices sound all the same (also because often they are: the same actor who lends his voice to Homer Simpson also "plays" Eddie Murphy and Kenneth Branagh: and he is one of the good ones). These actors' intonation is so contrived and unrealistic that if you try to mimic their way of acting in your everyday life, people would look at you as if you were insane. These performances are affecting the quality of acting in Italy so much that I hear those standardized intonations also on TV and in theater: wake up Italian audiences! We don't talk this way!

We need subtitles. First of all: it would help students learn languages faster (my dear friend Elli, who is Greek, told me that in Greece they have subtitles for every foreign movie or show and she claims her impeccable English comes from that). Second: if you have to squeeze a sentence to match the time a foreign actor takes to utter theirs, you have to prioritize timing over quality of the translation: you have to cut the sentence even more than you would if you had to translate it for a subtitle and the result is that the original meaning is often lost. And finally, and most importantly, if in Italy people were watching foreign movies, documentaries, interviews on the news in their original language, they would have a more realistic perception of foreign people in their own country: if a movie that they love is spoken in Arabic, for instance, they would probably look at the Middle Eastern communities in their own cities in a different way. I didn't see Babel in Italy, but I'm sure it was in Italian. What's the point of that movie then? Different locations?

Seriously, guys: stop dubbing: subtitles please!