Les Enfants du Paradis = The Children of …

If you live close to Washington, DC, and are interested in foreign languages, I hope you’ve taken advantage of all the offerings at the National Gallery of Art. A friend and I regularly go see French films on weekends. It’s such a laid-back way to maintain a connection to one of my source cultures!

Over the holiday, we were lucky enough to catch Les Enfants du Paradis, a 1945 French twist on the classic Harlequinade plot. I’m not generally a fan of mimes, but oh! Jean-Louis Barrault is so captivating. By the end of the film I was hooked. The three-hour epic mixes traditional acting with Barrault’s masterful pantomiming to describe the fate of Garance (played by Arletty) and Baptiste (Barrault), who are madly in love but become separated by ill-luck and a villain or two. Pathé released a restored version on DVD last year; if you can watch region 2 DVDs on your player, I highly recommend this classic!

As a translator’s aside, I want to draw your attention to a sticky issue: the word “Paradis” in the tile of the film refers to the upper level of seating in the theater, the cheapest ticketed section. In English, this is called the gallery or “the gods.” It is important because of the role wealth plays in parts of the main romance, as well as in Baptiste’s decision to continue performing in the small, “lower class” theater, even after rising to fame. In English, “Paradis” in the title is translated simply as “Paradise,” while the subtitles often refer to “the gods.” I wonder why that is?

I couldn’t find any mention to the subtitlers anywhere, so it’s difficult to research. What are your thoughts? Which word would you choose for the title?


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