Defining Terms

Night Watch

I saw Night Watch a few days ago. The film wasn’t bad; it had great cinematography and decent effects. Sadly, the story was a dim shadow of the one in the book, but I suppose that’s to be expected.

The most interesting part of the movie, for me, was the subtitling. I watched the DVD with the Russian audio and English subtitles. The subtitles were beautiful, dynamic, and surprising. The font was nice to look at and easy to read, even on my 27” SDTV. The words appeared and disappeared in unexpected ways on the screen. For example, sometimes they would be revealed from behind a character as he moved across the screen. Other times, multiple phrases would fade in and out at different times at different places on the screen. They were not constrained to the bottom of the screen: they would appear at any place on the screen. During conversations, the lines of each character would appear near the person on the screen, so it was easy to tell who said what. One of the most interesting presentations was of “The Call”, the siren song of the vampire to her victim. The words (e.g. “Come to me”) would appear on the screen blood-red, then swirl away like drops in a stream.

Time magazine has an interesting writeup about subtitles that mentions Night Watch, and has a poor quality screenshot of the subtitling of The Call. A DVD Times post has a number of other screenshots that show the subtitles.