Remakes are considered bad by most people, well my own take is fairly neutral. No! I am not talking about remakes in the sense an older released version being modernized & released again just for the sake of a cash grab. I am talking about the films which cross over the language barrier usually into Hollywood or out of the English speaking industry. I recently checked out Smartling, a translation software company, and it got me thinking about language and its relation to film. While Bollywood (Hindi language d Indian film industry) have production houses who have actually established themselves thanks to the money spinners produced by straight up lifting up other concepts & just adding up the Indian cultural elements to it, (Yes, I am talking about the Bhatts – Vishesh Films). Yet unlike most, I do support the idea. India is a vast country & even though education has found a good ground in recent years, their are still a vast variety of people who don’t speak or understand the English language till now, as a result bringing these good stories to them seems like a noble idea, well of course if we don’t look into the semantics.
Even though in recent years the focus has been more on lifting of South Korean films such as The Chaser (Murder 2), A Bittersweet Life (Awarapan), Oldboy (Zinda), I Saw The Devil (Ek Villain) & the list goes on & on. Well obviously things can be done more legally by officially buying the rights like how Karan Johar‘s production house Dharma Productions have been doing; We are Family (2010) being a remake of Stepmom (1998), so is the case of their upcoming remakes of Warrior (Brothers) & French drama The Intouchables. By the way did you all know the all time classic Sholay (1975) is an unofficial remake of Seven Samurai (1954) & The Magnificent Seven (1960). Looks like I just s**t on many peoples memories.
“If you hide the source, you’re a genius. There’s no such thing as originality in the creative sphere”
– Mahesh Bhatt (Indian Director, Producer, Writer)
Nevertheless despite my thoughts of Bollywood‘s never ending creative plagiarism, my opinions are mainly based on recent reactions to the news about Chris Columbus producing a US-based, English-language remake of 2010’s Norway film Troll Hunter. People pondering with statements such as original is great/awesome or a question of whether this really needed a remake or a comment that Hollywood was craven and unoriginal and, for a select few pieces, or just swear words. Surprisingly the trailer of the Julia Roberts – Nicole Kidman starrer The Secret In Their Eyes a remake of the awesome Argentinean thriller El secreto de sus ojo (translated as The Secret in Their Eyes) that won the best foreign-language Oscar five years ago, looks quite different from its original counterpart! Judging by the atmosphere & the sure to be great performances, the film does look like a must watch!
Language remakes have always been around believe it or not, for example 2013’s Spike Lee directed Old Boy comes first to mind! OK I am kidding about that disaster. Its actually The Departed (Infernal Affairs), The Ring (Ringu), The Magnificent Seven (Seven Samurai), Godzilla (Gojira) and A Fistful of Dollars (Yojimbo) come to mind immediately. I actually even loved the David Fincher directed The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo & can actually argue about the fact its even better than its original Swedish counterpart Män som hatar kvinnor. Even though there are a healthy amount of good remakes (maybe even nearing the amount of bad ones), it wasn’t until Let Me In (another horror hybrid taken from a European country) that my eyes were open to the new trend’s potential. Unlike The Ring, which seemed to come out of nowhere, Let Me In was a remake of a critically acclaimed film that had found a happy home amongst cinema goers. The cries of outrage were incredibly loud, and director Matt Reeves silenced almost all of them with an insanely capable movie. The lesson?
It’s easy to defecate all over the idea of a foreign remake, but we might just be better served asking whether (and how) it might actually be good. There’s a misconception that remaking movies at a grand scale is somehow killing creativity. There’s nothing in the rule book that says a remake can’t be creative, just like there’s no rule stating that an original film has to be good (or all that creative). Studio executives forcing remakes on the world shouldn’t be mutually exclusive with quality or ingenuity, and several recent films have proven that. This may sound like defeatism after fighting the good fight, but even highly talented directors are accepting a reheated fate – especially one that focuses on foreign films. Ben Affleck (a man with a solid directing resume so far) has just signed on to remake the French film Tell No One. Good people are signing on for remakes. Why are we still blindly protesting them? More so than that, we often think about originality and creativity within the context of what we know or believe is widely known. Within the world of movie writing, Troll Hunter is a well-known, well-respected foreign flick. To the greater movie-going populace, Troll Hunter is nothing because they’ve never heard the phrase. Is it that new, incredibly weird show on CW that follows people who look like Shrek?
That would have been my thought If I dint know what that film was! In that sense, anyone remaking any lesser-known foreign film will be bringing something new to an audience that doesn’t know about it. I am not saying their is no creativity in Hollywood, but what is wrong in bringing something fresh to the audience, which may or may not have been penned down by someone else. Well of course not every film works out for example the previously mentioned OldBoy, a travesty in all forms! Its not easy to translate a film which divulges into themes of torture, incest & gore for an audience which finds it hard to accept them at all cost. But same can be argued about The Departed, a remake of the 1st installment of the Hong Kong series Infernal Affairs, the film stands at a 289.8 million global box office haul, got director Martin Scorsese his 1st Academy Award & of course won the best picture as well!
Did I mention the film stars A listers like Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon & Mark Wahlberg as leads. People talk about unnecessary remakes, well for some particular movies I agree, but are they really bad thing when a particular concept is reaching other borders to reach a wider audience! As an aspiring screen writer myself, I would love to see a film I wrote reaching regions beyond my reach. It’s a tradition that suits filmmakers on both sides. Hollywood gets to bring a film that has already worked to an English-speaking audience whose members don’t read subtitles and tend to prefer stars they know. And how difficult could it be to rewrite the script and change a few cultural references? So in the end is Chris Columbus really a bad person for wanting to remake a foreign movie? Does that mean the directors of the great remakes listed above are all a******s? Well I think not! A request to movie studios: Just select carefully, not everything can be recreated & captured as aesthetically as the 1st time. Build memories don’t destroy them!