Subtitles are the new reading

Struggling with time to read?, I have a novel solution!

I remember giving up on The Grand a few years back, a Spanish period drama because I was no good at looking at the subtitles and kept having to rewind. Full confession, I have watched very few foreign language films: Y tu Mamá también is the only one I can remember enjoying as I always found all the reading too distracting.

I don’t know whether it is the pace of shows I like or the sometimes naturalistic mumblecore of the dialogue but during Mr Robot, I recently switched on subtitles and it’s been a revelation. I think where you are following a complex plot they help. Particularly in this show where the subtitles designate if Mr Robot or Eliot are speaking (for those who are unfamiliar, I won’t spoil it to say there is a blurring of the lines as to who is speaking at times.) Also the depth at which you can understand and appreciate the script, particularly where there is long, complex monologues from Eliot. These make an exquisite read as well as the compelling acting by Rami Malek.

And so it has spread to watching other things with subtitles. I suspect it is only working for me where the content is in English because there is not such a need to catch up. My husband laughs at me, of course, but I think it enriches the experience.

Alongside loving The Good Place, I have also been listening to the podcast which is a brilliant companion to it. The bits I enjoy the the most are hearing about the writer’s room and how ideas are developed and played with. As well as being inspiring (and it’s a pretty inspirational show), this has made me think differently about the idea of editing and changing ideas.

I also think subtitles can only help you sharpen your dialogue. Getting that balance between info dump and character can be tricky. One tip I use for writing dialogue is to record it using voice memo. It gets nearer to real speech that way. But I think seeing how screenplay plays out is interesting, people in heightened reality of films may speak for longer than you expect but get a lot across within their words.

Often TV can feel like a passive activity. Or I dismiss it’s value, though amongst the reality rubbish I watch, I also see some really amazing shows like those I have described. What makes it feel more productive is to make it a more active practice of appreciation. By really reading the script and understanding more about it, I feel like I am learning all the time.

Am I the only one who loves a subtitle?

….I wrote more about Making Time to Read on a previous post, if you’re more of a novel person.