Magnum in distress

As most of you know, in Germany films are dubbed (see “An mein Ohr kommt nur Wasser und O-Ton”). So on TV and in most cinemas, Daniel Craig and Jennifer Lawrence speak German while their lips form English words. But of course, this being Germany, voice-overs are not services purchased randomly for each film project. No, there is method in this madness. Read on and see for yourself what this entails and why Herr Lehmann is not just a good book.

Each popular American and English actress has her very own German voice, i.e. she is usually dubbed by one and the same voice-over artist in whatever film or series she stars. Voice-over artists may have several actors, but each actor generally has one voice-over artist and thus a recognisable German voice.

Consequently, Germans, unless they are either proper cinema aficionados or interpreters and watch every film in its original version, would never recognise, say, Sean Connery by his real voice.

On the other hand, who’d expect that the unsuspicious-sounding name Manfred Lehmann belongs to the German voice of not only Bruce Willis but also Dolph Lundgren, Gérard Depardieu and Kurt Russell, among others?

As for animated films, the UK, in its own productions, and Germany both make it a crucial part of a film’s PR to use famous actresses and actors for voice-over. For example, the little snowman Olaf in Frozen is spoken by German ‘household-name’ comedian Hape Kerkeling. And UK-produced films such as Arthur Christmas or Flushed Away feature celebs such as Hugh Laurie, James McAvoy, Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet.

Sometimes, well-known voices can play tricks on you. Do you remember the American TV series Magnum, P.I.? A friend of mine knows a guy who works as a handyman for a film production company. One day, that guy comes home to find an answerphone message by Tom Selleck’s German voice saying, “Hey, Andreas, I have some computer trouble. Could you please give me a ring”? How cool must this Andreas be if Magnum calls him for help!

So voices can definitely leave quite an impression. As an interpreter, I’m very aware of that. Try my podcast to see if you like this text being read to you.

And now get in gear for next week’s road trip.

The Pommes Buddha says: The name is Bond. James Bond.

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