Anyway, I like a good war film, and by that I mean one depicting an actual historical war. I like learning when country X sent an array of tanks into country Y and how the men of country Y have a sudden career change through mass conscription, and how we find out some way in the film (before the Americans join in on behalf of country Y and claim total victory to further their well-fed egos) that the men of country X are not just youthful images of their dictator but are fathers and husbands and detest this monstrosity of a war as much as the Y soldier he just bayoneted. These films can be very powerful, showing the unimaginable feats and ordeals the men have actually had to go through (and not too long ago either), as I watch them on my sofa, increasing my cholesterol level and complaining about hay fever.
Though it’s not universal praise from my part. There is an issue that goes unnoticed and uncared for by a lot of people: most wars, contrary to how some films depict, don't have every single combatant speaking English. Believe it or not, there are some wars between countries where neither of them have English as an esteemed language. So you may have guessed, I’m a subbed man and not a dubbed man.
My objection is that if you inherit the English language into the characters, along with a native English accent and not that of character's motherland, it severs the reality and the characters adopt the mannerisms of the accent (Pushing it a little: soldiers with British accents sound like they’re in a Carry On film). What’s worse is that some directors just go “fuck it” and allow British and American actors to use their natural accents and mingle together as naturally and unnoticeably as females in a LAN-party. An important part of a film, especially one depicting a slice of history, is immersion. It’s hard to believe that the men in The Bunker and Hitler: The Last Ten Days are as German as the Kaiser when we have the polite happy go lucky British Hitler, and the American Goebbels commenting on the American enemy. (Although I’ve yet to watch it) I can’t dare passively watch Enemy at the Gates if I find Red Army soldiers speaking the Queen’s.
I do allow a compromise to this, however, and examples include Defiance and The Pianist. In Defiance, Daniel Craig and everyone in his community are Belorussians hiding in forests from the Germans. They’re supposed to speak Belorussian (Belarusian) in reality but on film they speak English with a slavic accent. Russian soldiers speak Russian and German soldiers speak German, but their appearances in the film are secondary to Daniel Craig’s group. This works because I’m convinced in the film that they are Belorussians and need no reminding, and there’s no confusion between who’s one of the three (I must say Daniel Craig doesn’t do a bad job with the accent at all). The use of spoken English is perhaps better because most Western viewers cannot distinguish between Russian and Belarusian. A similar example lies in The Pianist. Adrien Brody and Polish characters speak English with a slight Polish(-Jewish) accent, some don’t bother which doesn’t help, but the language barrier between “Polish” and German is displayed adequately when Adrien Brody collects his German words when reasoning with SS men.
Just to note why these examples tend to involve Germans in WWII: it’s because my personal collection of war films are set in the 20th century Europe during World War II or one of the East Asian wars such as Korea or Vietnam. I can’t use the East Asian war films in my examples because they have the languages accurate for the belligerents, and for two reasons:
- Anglo-American actors can’t replace the native-language actors because Americans tend to be in the war on the other side so it would disrupt the language barrier that existed during the particular war.
- A fair few of 20th century East Asian war films were produced in the countries where the war took place, so would have a stockpile of actors able to speak the native language and would have no reason not to with the target audience speaking the same language (e.g. Assembly depicting the Chinese Civil War, and Brotherhood depicting the Korean War).